Thursday, June 28, 2007

explaining hasidic judaism to the average american joe

A non-Jewish coworker who lives near Kiryas Joel asked me yesterday why Hasidic Jews have “the curls”. He thought it is so G-d can pull them up to heaven. Another coworker who moved to the same neighborhood told me he and a friend from Pennsylvania who knows nothing about Jews spent the weekend “Jew watching” at Home Depot in complete confusion as to the whole lifestyle (I think I am the most “Jewish” person this non-native-NYer has ever had contact with, so K.Y. is pretty much another planet to him).

Next question was whether Hasidic Jews have TVs. He thought they do, but I dispelled that myth and when asked admitted to not having one myself. To the average American, living without a TV is tantamount to saying you live in a log-cabin and read by candlelight near your wood burning stove, because you obviously are not part of the real 21st century world.

How to explain Kiryas Joel in a few simple sentences to your average American Joe is quite a challenge… Anyone have suggestions?


  1. Anonymous5:20 PM

    Breslovers actually believe that peyos are so they can be pulled out of hell. Honest to god.

  2. Pretty tough thing to do.

    On another note years ago I was approached in a nursing home parking lot by a reverent who wanted to know why we wear yarmulkes. I asked him if he knew why the pope wears one? At his bafflement I told him to go back and read his old testament. Don't priests in the temple wear a head covering? as a symbol of subservience as servants of God? I explained that by gentiles only the pope and cardinals consider themselves servants of God while we jews are all such. he walked away shaking his head and I saw it really impacted him.

    Sometimes one gets these inspired moments! I was thinking of rav Chisda!

  3. Dovid7:52 PM

    Maybe: To prevent the new culture they found themselves in after the Holocaust from convincing them not to serve G-d they have decided to not listen to it at all. All the rest, e.g. the curls,they feel helps them serve G-d better in different ways.

    PS Good posts recently

  4. Jewish Amish, except that they use electricity. On a more serious note, separatists, who have customs which are customs.

  5. Anonymous8:16 AM

    While Rebbe Nachman ZT"L referred to pulling people out of Gehennom by their peyos, that clearly wasn't the reason he (or anyone) thought they had peyos to begin with.

  6. Yehuda R1:52 PM

    In my experience most nonjews express respect, not suprise when I say I don't have a TV (although it always comes up in the context of their assuming I do)

  7. A religious political entity like Utah, whose inhabitants dress and speaks like the Amish, belong to a cult of personality, don't object to most modern technology, but do object to modern media, and that follow the laws of the Bible as interpreted by 3000 years of rabbis.

    That last of course is all Orthodox Jews, but the rest distinguishes them from other Orthodox Jews and from other American closed religious communities.

    Given that a Satmarer housing board determines who can buy in, it is indirectly a religious political entity, despite the First Amendment.

  8. Chaim, why are you asking non-Satmarers to help you explain Satmar? Find out what you need to know from Satmarers in Kiryas Joel.

  9. Anonymous6:34 PM

    David, it's reverend, not reverent.

    In fact the type of Jews of which you speak actively separate themselves from mainstream culture. I don't think you really want to provide some sort of education campaign for non-Jews, and if you expect us to actively seek out information on the beliefs of people who don't really want anything to do with us and look upon us as inferior, forget about it. People who set themselves apart from the mainstream of the culture in which they will always be looked at as odd. Your choice.