July 6, 2014 Anecdote from a local
I’m always interested in the communication between the self-isolated Hasidic world and the modern world. Researchers, as a matter of their profession, need to find ways to cross into the Hasidic world as their work depends on that relationship. Although to date there hasn’t been a lot of serious research on the community, some good work was published every now and then. The recent Commentary Magazine article on What You Don’t Know about the Ultra-Orthodox by Jack Wertheimer is an example of excellent research that is both well-informed and insightful. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about the community.
Another prominent researcher of Hasidic life, and of Hasidic Williamsburg in particular was George Kranzler, one of the only academics who wrote about Hasidic Williamsburg. He wrote the book Williamsburg, a Jewish Community in Transition and followed it up years later with Hasidic Williamsburg: A Contemporary American Hasidic Community . He must have spent some time in Williamsburg for his research.
A reader/Hasid who met Kranzler while he was doing his research shared with me his interaction. Here’s this reader’s story: (Thanks for sharing!)
“I was a young bochur of about thirteen years old and I prayed at the Satmar Rodney Street synagogue in the evening [when I met the scholar Kranzler.] Several of my friends told me that there’s some modern Jew who is interested in talking to us, and as I was a little bit of a wise guy as they call it, and I spoke a better English than my friends, they came over to me.
Kranzler was a small skinny yiddele without a beard, but his eyes blazed with the light of a soft heart. Any mischievous plans I may have had by going over to him poured out between my fingers in our handshake. He told me that he was in Williamsburg for a celebration in the V’yoel Moshe hall and since he really likes the whole Williamsburg business and Satmar is one of its leaders, he wants to see it from up close. So I offered to walk him to the wedding hall (his grandson went along with him.) He asked a lot of questions about my parents and the yeshiva, what we do in our free time, etc. I remember one thing – he showed tremendous respect for the Williamsburg community in general and respect for me, even though I was so young.
After talking at the wedding hall, he told me that he published books on Williamsburg and he wrote the titles down for me. Those were of the first books I read in English, with a dictionary (since he was a professor he didn’t write simple John Grisham English) but I managed!”