Many Jews remember Williamsburg before its Hasidic transformation; when centrist Orthodox and secular Jews were part of the neighborhood landscape. But not many dedicated themselves to recording their memories and preserving the fascinating history of the community as it transformed to a Hasidic community. Philip Fishman is of the few who shared their experiences with the public. His book “A...

When a friend of mine was in Williamsburg late one night for a wedding, he explored the neighborhood a little bit, and told me that he stumbled upon the old Young Israel of Brooklyn I wrote about here, one of the important sites in historic Williamsburg, and had a conversation with the purported owner of the property. My friend learned from the owner that...

Yom Tov Ehrlich was probably the most important Yiddish songwriters/artists in the post holocaust American Hasidic community. I grew up with Yom Tov Ehrlich and can sing many of his songs [and I do; and not only to my son!] and I associate many of them with very warm memories of my mother. But there is one song in particular that...

In a previous post, I wrote about the Satmar Rabbi's influence on the Williamsburg community, and that his anti-zionist stance can be seen all over Williamsburg, even among non-Satmar sects, in the absence of pro-Israeli symbols in its streets. Where Israeli flags and Jewish Stars were commonplace in Williamsburg before the non-Hasidic Orthodox population left, the Jewish stars have been vanishing....

The other day, I passed the Ladies Bikur Cholim and tried to look inside. I've always known a little bit about Bikur Cholim: it is an all volunteer organization that helps the poor and the elderly. I knew that it provides free services not only to community members in need, but also to the sick outside of the community. They...

 just came across this line in an email correspondence: "life of an Hassidic woman." Because of the an before the word Hassidic, we think that Hassidic is pronounced with a silent H, as if it was acidic. Our sentence reads "life of an Acidic woman." No, that is not good. Grievous error. Hasidic is actually CHasidic, with a strong guttural CH in the beginning. Because the guttural CH does not exist in English, we drop...

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...

In the first installment, I looked at the modest Klausenburg synagogue at 131 Lee Avenue that used to be a motion picture theater. A few blocks away, at 27 Lee Avenue, we have the huge Vien Synagogue that used to be a theater too, but for its story, we need to go back much further in time. In the buildings on its...

Some collectors amass interesting collections of stamps or antiques, this is the beginning of the collection of something different: wall posters from the Williamsburg streets. The signs that are taped to walls and street lamps are usually in Yiddish and Hebrew, and address a wide range of issues relevant to the community. Often the messages in them are demands for...

A very dramatic story went down on a Friday Night 9:00pm on Lee Avenue in 1865, when the good people of the "burgh" were praying at the Lee Avenue church with the door open, because it was so hot. They suddenly heard a female shriek. They found a woman who called herself Mary with her clothes disheveled and a man...

Here's how incredibly different Hasidic NYC is from most of the rest of the city: as far as I observed, there is no tipping. The other day I overheard a secular woman ask the waiter at Gottlieb's Restaurant if he was sure there is no gratuity. The waiter smiled and insisted, in heavily accented English, that there is no gratuity....

Editors: Simon A. Wood and David Harrington Watt Fundamentalism; Perspectives on a Contested History published last month, contains a series of scholarly essays that examine different types of fundamentalist groups in America. I added this book to my bookshelf for its two essays by Shaul Magid, one on Habad and one on Satmar. In the essays, there is a lot of academic jargon...

I saw this the other day. The sign on this bus reads: "This 'air condition' on this bus was sponsored by the 'Ladies Auxiliary' of our congregation." I had to stop and take a picture, because I've never seen a part of a bus donated! And because I needed an air condition too, and I thought maybe this may be my answer. But...

  Where did the streets of Williamsburg get their names from? Many of the streets are named after the signers of the declaration of independence, especially from Pennsylvania and the Carolinas. Take Rutledge, Taylor, Clymer, Wilson, etc. The signature page below almost looks like a map! Keap Street is named after Thomas McKean. I marked the signature in red. The signature is a scribble that could easily...

Leonard Lopate, the host of WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show, one of my favorite radio shows, grew up in Williamsburg. His family moved from Queens to Brooklyn/Williamsburg in about 1945, when he was five years old. That is, he must have lived in Williamsburg during very transformative yeras. He told me in an email exchange that he used to live on 151 Ross,...

Since I wrote about the church in Kiryas Joel yesterday, a number of people shared with me their memories of the time when the peaceful, insular world of Kiryas Joel was overwhelmed by the mass influx of Jehovah’s Witnesses who came to the church on Mountain Road. It was an unforgettable sight when the buses poured in and the Hasidim...

I always ask my groups what the above pastries are, and invariably a few people will call out rugelach. I ask if they know of another name for it, and not once has anyone ever said kipelach. I asked Kaff's Bakery what the difference between rugelach and kipelach is, and the cashier said that it's the same; the terms are interchangeable. In our...