I ran into this ceremony on my way out of one of my Sunday tours. It was held in front of the Puppa Boy’s School, where our tour often passes. This was an inauguration of a newly completed Torah, the ceremony called Hachnuses Sefer Torah. Everyone looked all dressed up and festive!

I’ve been going through some old files to make room in the closet, and found my old folder from my eighth grade “Sewing Course”. Sewing was usually the only class that didn’t involve sitting at the desk and taking notes. I find it really interesting to contrast this “special” (as such classes would be called in my son’s public school) with my son’s sevenths grade “specials”, which are of course music, gym, French and library.

The introduction states that the goal of the course is to be able to fix clothing to make it fit better and more modest.

Our particular course was to learn the various different approaches to filling a skirt slit so as to ensure it was modest. We had to write down instructions plus mini samples.

The “Skirt Pleat Extension”
The “Kick Pleat”
The “Center Pleat”
The “Pleat Insert Slash”

I probably couldn’t pull off any of this if my life depended on it, but then again, who remembers their high school calculus either.

This canvas “streetsign” went up all over Williamsburg during the Hanukah season of 2018. It alerts consumers of the TAG Company — Technology Awareness Group, the company that provides kosher technology solutions — to various issues (bugs, if you will) with tech-based Hanukah gifts:

The cameras might have wifi and video that needs to be disabled…

The Gameboy might have wifi…

The iPod might have radio that can’t be removed…

Reminds me of the kosher camera. People always have a hard time figuring out what a kosher camera might be!

These posters tell us so much about the way Hasidim navigate a world of technology. The solution is not, like Amish communities, to reject or prohibit technology, but rather to modify it so as to benefit from some parts of it without embracing the elements that might result in “apostasy”, or a shift in one’s thinking.

This popped up on Lee Avenue this winter, 2018. It’s been a while since we’ve seen the community’s zealots busy themselves with the cause against smartphones. It seemed as if the matter had successfully moved from some extremists making noise through posters and such to the entire community changing its attitude towards smartphones, so the posters stopped appearing with that same urgency. But now a new angle: posters warning against flip-phones that might not be kosher either. 

“An innocent little door to HELL”

The first sign shows a picture of a phone and it warns that it leads to hell. In the small text the people are warned that community activists had proof that individuals had been ruined by “innocent looking flip phones” that are in reality “treif”, pork, chazer

The other shows us a cheeseburger and warns that treif meat might be cheaper, “it costs pennies and could be found in Walmart for bubkes”, but it isn’t kosher. The message, as I understand it, is that one might find a flip-phone at Walmart at a good price, but if it isn’t a “kosher phone”, then it is treif and “be careful, with a few buttons the filter could be removed”. 

Maybe the author is a Hasidic kosher phone retailer with an economic incentive to steer business towards the kosher phones sold only by Hasidim. I’ve often marveled at how well the economic motive and the religious motive together make very expedient partners…

This fall there has been an influx of posters from Israeli Haredei activists who are pushing back against the Israeli draft of Orthodox youths. There is no knowing how interested local New York Hasidim are in these issues, but the Israeli activists sure have been churning out posters.

I find this poster particularly illustrative for its shocking use of the holocaust as analogous with the cause against the Israeli draft. The poster reads “The trains already left the station” and promises to stop it with martyrdom. It speaks to how differently the narrative of the holocaust is told among Hasidim than among the rest of Jewry. The book “Hasidism a New History” touched on how differently the Hasidim remembered the holocaust, for example by not observing a remembrance day. In my view, Hasidim think of the holocaust less as a singular event in Jewish history but rather as a most important lesson for a recurring theme of a story of physical and spiritual persecution. This is how the holocaust then comes to be seen as reoccurring in spiritual battles; because the persecution is everywhere and continuous through history. In that view, a dramatic evocation of the holocaust is used to rouse to a call to action.