Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Brooklyn, eh

Now I know for a fact that I have quite a few posts in me about a favorite saga of mine, namely life in frummie Brooklyn. So I figure maybe I should explain how I wound up here.

I'll start off by admitting a dirty little secret, namely that until a few years ago, I had consciously steered clear of Brooklyn. In all my years of visiting the Big Apple, I had chosen to spend my time in Manhattan, with a day here or there in the Bronx (Zoo/Botanical Gardens) and a few Shabbosim in Queens. I mean, my mental view of Brooklyn was of a place plain and suburbanish, like a lamer version of Jersey. And, as a girl who had grown up and lived almost exclusively in cities, why would I choose to go to a suburb, when I was vacationing and had the city to explore?

It was a series of odd events that introduced me to Brooklyn. One long weekend a few years back, I came for vacation to New York with my girlfriend. We did some shopping, she visited family, and I made the rounds through some shidduchim I had lined up. As Hashem would have it, one guy I liked more than the others (no, he didn't turn out to be my husband), and we ended up seeing each other every day for the rest of my trip. The day my friend and I were scheduled to fly home, the shidduch and I planned to meet in the morning for coffee. But upon ringing him that morning, I was faced with a dilemma: he told me that he was going to Brooklyn to do his weekly shopping. Did I want to accompany him?

What was I going to do? Tell him that I didn't go to Brooklyn? I could imagine my ex-Brooklynite friends back home, laughing their heads off at the thought of me taking the Q train. Of even contemplating the trek out to Flatbush. Wasn't I the girl who, 24 hours before, had told my girlfriend that I wouldn't accompany her to Crown Heights, because I don't do Brooklyn? And yet, when he asked, I said sure, no problem.

Imagine the sweet irony I felt when we got off the train on Avenue J, and I saw all the shops, and all the shuls on Coney Island, and all the restaurants, and I was...hooked. I mean, I didn't delude myself- Brooklyn was no Manhattan, it was not even Toronto or even Vancouver. But it felt like a vanilla milkshake on a summer evening- both rejuvenating and satisfying. It smelled of spiritual opportunity. And what I had been longing for that past year, what I had been sensing deep down in my gut, was my need to live in a place that offered me a chance to continue growing. I felt that the wonderful community I lived in, as very special and unique as it was, did not offer me any more room to grow. I was stagnating, if you will.

And so, like that, I decided to take a chance and move to Brooklyn. Tune in to future postings to hear about how living in Brooklyn has given me an expanded perspective on frumkeit.


  1. My deepest admiration on seeing spiritual opportunities in Brooklyn! My hat off to you:)

  2. Some parts of Brooklyn are old, others are decrepit. Few are new.

    There is a staleness in the air in certain places, and a rudeness in all places in Brooklyn.

    There are dichotomies in every area of thought and behavior.

    One can go insane trying to understand Brooklyn, for it is beyond comprehension.

    But, Brooklyn is now the Center of Judaism.
    Brooklyn is the home of almost every Chassidishe group, as well as many of the Yeshivish world.
    There are more stores for Yidden in Brooklyn that anywhere. There is no place on this third rock from the Sun where one could find more kosher meat, kosher fish, seforim stores, chassidish clothing stores, women's clothing stores featuring tzniusdike clothing or more foundations of chesed.

    Brooklyn is old, decrepit, rude, dirty, stale, and unsafe, but it is still the center of Yiddishkeit.

  3. I used to live in B.P. & Willi all my life until I got married in my mid twenties. That’s when I moved to Cleveland. Although I am B”H happily married with KY”H 8 children, one thing I MISS very much is living in BKLYN.

    I am a very frum woman who wears a hat on top of a long sheitel and black stockings. The black stockings is ONLY because that’s what’s being worn in the winter months and beige/neutral in the spring/summer months. It’s very difficult for me to find the kinds of suits I used to buy while living in B.P.

    Although most places in BKLYN are known for its filthiness & rudeness, there are reasons why I MISS BKLYN. I miss the Shuls that are almost on every block. There are blocks where you’ll find 2-3 shuls on the same block.

    Since I grew up in a very frum household, I always heard the Hassidishe Havarah davening on Shabbos & Yom Tov. Unfortunately I no longer hear this since there isn’t anyone that davens in such a way. For this reason there are AT LEAST 4x a year which I spend time with my ENTIRE family, (yes, all 8 children). These are the Yomim Tovim of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Succos, and Pesach.

    Additionally we come in from time to time to do major shopping for everyone, for the house. The Yom Tov and Shabbos Levush worn by men and women in BP can NEVER be compared to the Levush worn on Yom Tov and Shabbos by men and women in Cleveland. This would mean no longer seeing the men wearing Bekeshe, Shtreimel, Vasser Zokin, Beever hat. The women wearing short sheitels and hats on top of them, seamed stockings, and the like. I miss not seeing this kind of dress wear in Cleveland. Every time I come into BP, I make sure to buy the kind of suit/outfit that’s worn by women on Shabbos/Yom Tov. I also make sure to visit most of my friends and family who live in BP and Willi.

    There’s no problem in B.P. or Willi to get heimishe shechitas. One must NOT NEED to go far to make such purchases. Unfortunately here in Cleveland, there are places that you can get kosher stuff but you must drive for a long time to get kosher milk, meat, fish and the like.

    Believe it or not but my 2 oldest children, ages 16 &18 asks me repeatedly if we can move to NY. My children keep telling me how they miss seeing the real Shabbos/Yom Tov spirit in the air. The long lines in bakeries, supermarkets, buying shoes for the children for Yom Tov. They miss seeing people selling Hoshanas, Lulav & Esrog on the streets.

    Hoping with much convincing from me and my 2 oldest children towards my husband, their father, we will relocate to BP or Willi in the very near future. Amen.

  4. On Friday afternoon, around 2:00 p.m., the entire neighborhood shuts down, allowing the Hasidim to go home and prepare for Shabbos, the Jewish Sabbath. It is Erev Shabbos, when, dressed in their finest garb, large families hurry through the streets to the services where they welcome their day of rest. Come Sunday morning, the normal workweek will resume; the restaurants and stores will open again, the sidewalks will overflow with bustling shoppers and the streets will be filled with roaring, honking traffic.

  5. There really is no place like Brooklyn!!

  6. Although there are many parts of BKLYN where yidden live, BP & Williamsburg are the 2 MAIN locations where one sees & feels the atmosphere of Shabbos & Yom Tov to its full capacity.