Hasidic Jews

'Strollerville' trends: Religion ghosts in epic quest by New Yorkers to find that extra bedroom?

'Strollerville' trends: Religion ghosts in epic quest by New Yorkers to find that extra bedroom?

As a part-time New York City resident — lower Manhattan, to be precise — I am learning how to read between the lines when people talk about their adventures trying to find affordable places to live.

Basically, if your family and/or set of roomies can live with one bedroom, you’re in business. If you need two bedrooms, things get tougher but you are still in the game. Listening to New Yorkers talk about apartments is kind of like hearing an urban version of Lord of the Rings or some other epic Hero’s Journey narrative.

Marriage doesn’t really affect this tale — but children do. Again, it’s all about needing that second bedroom. A third bedroom? Fuhgeddaboudit. Then it’s time to start studying commuter trains.

This is another way of saying that — in the New York City context — the decision to have more than 2.100 children has massive implications that involve real estate, but other big issues as well. If being a New Yorker is a kind of cultural religion, having two children raises eyebrows. But having more than 2.100 children is a heresy (for folks with normal incomes). At the very least, it’s countercultural.

This leads me to a remarkably faith-free New York Times story that ran the other day with this epic double-decker headline:

New York’s New Strollervilles

In search of affordable housing, young families are putting down roots in places like Sunset Park in Brooklyn and Morris Park in the Bronx.

What a great word — Strollerville. It’s kind of cute and trendy, but with just a pinch of judgment. The key is that all one needs to get into Strollerville status is, obviously, one stroller. The opening scene:

A few years ago, the gateways to the courtyard of Peter Bracichowicz’s co-op in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, were empty. Now, there are wall-to-wall baby strollers.

“I actually counted them: 10 on one side, eight on the other,” said Mr. Bracichowicz, a Corcoran agent who used to live in the complex. “And that’s just in the entrance.”

Oh the humanity.

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A rabbi (who belongs on your sources list) unpacks info on Orthodoxy and Zionism

A rabbi (who belongs on your sources list) unpacks info on Orthodoxy and Zionism

One of the oddest incidents during The Religion Guy’s decades on the beat was an annual Nation of Islam rally in Chicago led by Minister Louis Farrakhan (who was notably entangled with President Barack Obama’s former United Church of Christ pastor).

The oddity was that Farrakhan, America’s most prominent anti-Semite, invited Jewish rabbis to speak.

Not routine rabbis, of course, but spokesmen for Neturei Karta of Monsey, NY, a fierce faction of Orthodox Jews that condemns Zionism as “heresy” and accuses Israel of committing “aggression against all peoples.”

Orthodox Judaism’s traditional opposition to Zionism was a theme in Chaim Potok’s beloved 1967 novel “The Chosen” (a must-read for religion writers of all kinds). Potok depicted a friendship after World War Two between two Orthodox boys, the son of an ardent Zionist educator, and the heir to a Hasidic dynasty opposed to establishment of modern Israel.    

Reporters on foreign affairs, politics, and religion should be aware of Rabbi Shalom Carmy of Yeshiva University, whose latest column for the interfaith journal First Things discusses Orthodoxy and Zionism.  If not there already, carmy@yu.edu  belongs on your prime source list, since Orthodoxy is trickier to cover than Judaism’s other branches.   

Carmy makes a key point: “Secular journalists typically ascribe pockets of rigorously Orthodox antagonism to Zionism to the belief that Jews will only govern themselves in the land of Israel when the Messiah comes.”

That’s true for some Hasidic groups, he says. But historically, the rest of Orthodoxy had a different objection.

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Ultra-orthodox Jews: BBC offers an enlightening potrayal of women who want out

Ultra-orthodox Jews: BBC offers an enlightening potrayal of women who want out

It’s often very tough to get the inside story on closed communities such as the Amish, the Scientologists and Hasidic Jews. 

The big chink in the armor is when someone defects and that’s how BBC came up with its fascinating take about divorced Hasidic Jewish women in their multimedia presentation, “Scare the mother, save the child.”

The story starts with a photo of a woman who’s knocking at a door, her back to the camera. She’s wearing shoulder-length brown hair in a pageboy cut and it’s later when we learn that’s a wig, as married women in that culture don’t show their real hair. This is the only photo that runs with this piece. The rest of the images are lovely, sketched multimedia illustrations (all of which are  copyrighted, so we offer you a screen shot of the opening page). Then:

Inside the closed world of Hasidic Jews in the UK are stories of mothers who risk everything in order to leave their communities, with their children.
Emily and Ruth are two women who found themselves locked in lopsided battles - facing harassment, intimidation, and crowd-funded lawyers.
Neither of them realised what it would cost them.

The story goes on to tell of how the door finally opened into a room with two men sitting there. One spoke to her.

We hear that you intend to end your marriage, he said. Ruth would write down their conversation in a diary later. The men had been told that Ruth would be willing to leave her children with their father after their divorce. “No, that's not the case,” she replied, confused. This was not the conversation she had been expecting.
Then her interrogator mentioned some pictures.

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Women-only pools: New York Times still says they are OK for Muslims, but not Jews?

Women-only pools: New York Times still says they are OK for Muslims, but not Jews?

When is a pool not a pool?

When it’s a war zone. Which is what a certain pool in Brooklyn, N.Y., has become in recent months.

First, here's some background. You might recall a bucolic New York Times piece some months ago about a Toronto neighborhood pool that was the essence of Canadian openness. The Times called it a “model of inclusion” in the headline over the story of a pool that has separate women-only swim times for Muslims, then transgender people. The writer was positively rapturous over the gender-neutral locker rooms (it didn’t say what folks do in terms of showers), the yoga classes from women veiled up to their eyeballs with a niqab and disabled-friendly architecture.

Switch the venue east to Brooklyn, however, and a June 29 Times story about a similar pool with separate swimming hours for Orthodox Jewish women is about religious/gender intolerance. Yes, this is new coverage of the dispute that our own tmatt dug into recently in another post ("Swimmin' Orthodox Women").

Let's read further:

Under slate-colored light slanting from the skylights, the women entered the city pool on Wednesday morning, its oxidized copper ceiling lending a mint-green cast to the water’s surface. Their swimming outfits would have been considered prudish even by the standards of 1922, when the pool was built. They swam in dresses, some with long sleeves. One paddled in thick black tights. Inside the locker room, wigs sat upside down on window ledges and benches while their owners swam with heads under ruffled swimming caps or knotted silk scarves.
The swimmers were Hasidic women, who abide by strict codes of modesty and who go to the Metropolitan Recreation Center in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for an unusual feature: It is one of two city swimming pools with gender-segregated hours. The other is the St. John’s Recreation Center in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

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Swimmin' Orthodox women: A complex synagogue-and-state gender wars story

Swimmin' Orthodox women: A complex synagogue-and-state gender wars story

This isn't your basic separation of synagogue-and-state debate that we have here, care of The Atlantic. At least, I don't think so.

Instead, we have a story that -- with the tsunami of gender-identity news about showers, locker rooms and bathrooms -- raises lots of questions linked to public funds, female privacy, religious liberty and, yes, another dose of GetReligion mirror-image news analysis, as well.

As you would imagine, the lawyers in New York City are pretty used to dealing with complicated questions linked to Orthodox Judaism and public life. Now we have this newsy double-decker headline:

Who Should Public Swimming Pools Serve?
Women-only hours at a location in Brooklyn have ignited a debate about religious accommodation and the separation of church and state.

Now, the story by Adam Chandler does make it clear that the issue of "women only" hours at a public pool is not a new one. This isn't the only case involving religious doctrine and the privacy rights of women. But here is the overture, just to get us started.

Oh, I should issue a trigger alert for readers troubled by the word "theocratic," care of, logically enough, an editorial in The New York Times.

This week, a public pool in Brooklyn became the diving-off point for a new clash over religious law and religious coercion in New York City. For decades, the Metropolitan Recreation Center in Williamsburg has offered gender-separated swimming hours in an accommodation to the heavily Hasidic Jewish community that it serves.

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