Few things in Jewish life are worse than a “shanda.”
A shanda is worse than vicious synagogue politics, intense machatenesta rivalry or missing an epic kiddush.
The term “shanda” is Yiddish and refers to a shameful scandal or, to put it slightly differently, something that is scandalously shameful. It typically refers to misconduct committed by an individual that is broadcast to the general public and thus, fairly or unfairly, reflects poorly on both the individual and the Jewish community as a whole. In other words, a shanda is like a tidal wave that not only destroys the house closest to the beach, but also brings enormous currents that flood the entire neighborhood and beyond. Thus, a major shanda is a tsunami of shame.
While the type of shanda described above may be the most common and worse form of shanda, one could argue that certain lesser shandas exist. Such lesser shandas might include those that are heard only within a particular community or are a few degrees away from being a complete shanda, but still qualify as a source of “busha” (embarrassment) for the perpetrator(s), their families and anyone connected to them.
Thus, there arguably are different levels of shanda, including a full shanda (really embarrassing and awful) and a semi-shanda (only half as embarrassing and awful as a full shanda). If the difference between a full shanda and a semi-shanda eludes you, here are some examples:
Full shanda: You finish all of the cholent before your guests arrive.
Semi-shanda: At the same time, you set a Guinness Book of World Records for eating the most cholent in one sitting.
Full shanda: Your child is kicked out of sleepaway camp after the first week.
Semi-shanda: Your child is kicked out of sleepaway after the first week for excessive and annoying ruach and for over-eagerly performing an overabundance of mitzvot.
Full shanda: You contributed only one dollar to the rabbi’s discretionary fund.
Semi-shanda: This time you contributed without openly questioning the rabbi’s discretion.
Full shanda: You forgot your wedding anniversary.
Semi-shanda: At least you remembered that you are married.
Full shanda: You and your spouse went on a family vacation without your children.
Semi-shanda: You and your spouse went on a family vacation with your children but you checked your children into a different hotel.
Full shanda: You did not invite your in-laws to attend the Pesach seders at your home.
Semi-shanda: You invited your in-laws to attend the Pesach Seders at someone else’s home.
Full shanda: You submitted to your local newspaper a provocative, overly-candid and detailed letter to the editor complaining about your annoying younger sibling.
Semi-Shanda: You took out
an advertisement in your local newspaper offering to sell your younger sibling for a fair price and subject to the buyer first submitting to extensive background checks and drug testing.
Full shanda: You neglected to tell your boss that you are going on a four-week vacation.
Semi-shanda: You told your spouse that you are going on a four-week vacation, but you did not necessarily invite your spouse.
Full shanda: While serving as shul president, you fail to make any announcements after Shabbat morning services.
Semi-shanda: You make the announcements in shul but do so in Pig Latin.
Full shanda: You strategically and forcibly move your parents into a senior living facility well before they are seniors.
Semi-shanda: You visit them once a year and you pay someone to call them (on your behalf) on their birthdays, wedding anniversary and Father’s/Mother’s Day.
Final thought: When it comes to a shanda, the only bad publicity ... is bad publicity.