Machberes: Inside The Chassidish And Yeshivish World
By Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum
Applications for the purchase of new homes are being distributed among Satmar congregations throughout the greater New York City metropolitan area. The new homes will make up a Satmar community within a three-hour traveling distance of Williamsburg (Brooklyn, not Virginia), presumably northwards. The initial phase of the new community will consist of 500 homes. A second phase will have an additional 300 homes available.
The applications come with an introduction highlighting the spectacular growth of the chassidish communities in Williamsburg, Boro Park, and Kiryas Yoel. Oh, and don’t forget Lakewood. “They will increase and they will spread out” (Shemos 1:12) is being realized before our very own eyes. The number of parallel classes in the Satmar yeshivas and girls’ schools is increasing dramatically every year.
Every Friday night at Satmar shuls, a long list of shalom zachors for newborn boys and kiddushim for newborn girls are joyously announced. In just a few short years, these newborn children will be enrolled in the Satmar schools, which today ranks as the largest yeshiva system in the world. “If the Satmar schools in New York were a public-school system, it would be the fourth-largest system in the state, after those of New York City, Buffalo, and Rochester” (New York Times, April 25, 2006).
As chassidim traditionally marry off their children at relatively young ages, suitable apartments must quickly be found that are large enough to house the anticipated children that the new couple will be blessed with.
As the couple becomes a family, they outgrow their beginner’s apartment. The crowding inside the apartment spills over to crowding in the apartment houses, and then onto the street. The children are limited in playing space, and running space is totally absent. The expression “climbing the walls” best describes what many children do.
Heimishe economics. The application brochure discusses the long-accepted budget advice to have 25% percent of one’s earnings go towards either rent or mortgage payments. However, with today’s sky-high prices, that is no longer feasible. The cost of an apartment in Boro Park and Williamsburg averages $750,000, and the cost of an apartment in Kiryas Yoel averages $400,000. Apartment rentals are correspondingly elevated.
Today’s reality has a young chassidish family devoting almost their total budget for rent alone, with very little available for anything else. Those dedicated families who have husbands continuing their Torah learning in kollel consume the resources of their parents. Under current circumstances, many young men must cut short their kollel ambitions in order to provide for their families. Wives have to continue their out-of-the-home employment when they should preferably be at home for their precious children. The same factors apply to those whose husbands are working but not earning CEO salaries.
The new Satmar shtetl. The new community will be offering its homes, suitable for large families, for $40,000. Yes, that is a 4 followed by only four zeroes. That is a savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars and super-affordable. These homes are not a plan on paper, but are already existing houses at prices that will fit the ideal budget allowance for home rental or mortgage payments. The picture on the brochure hints that the homes are all two- or three-story detached single-family units, all with front porches, separated by private driveways.
In addition, the new homes are within a general community that will offer income and employment opportunities. Large commercial spaces have been acquired that will not only provide space for business applications, but for organizational usage as well. The planners of the new community have designed their new project well. The anticipated first phase of 500 families would include a committee that will ensure that every family has an opportunity for a viable livelihood, including a distribution of positions as rabbis, dayanim, rebbes, teachers, kollel members, as well as businesses. Members of Hatzalah, Shomrim, and Chaverim are enthusiastically invited.
The brochures emphasize the large size of the homes, the attractive prices, income opportunities, religious-needs infrastructure, and that a prominent hospital is within a short distance. The homes will be scraped, painted, and wired for electricity and telephones. Of course, prices may vary according to size and condition. Presently, 500 homes are ready for purchase. In addition, 300 homes are in the midst of negotiations. Thousands of additional homes, ranging from 1,200 to 2,200 square feet, are available in the immediate surroundings at similar pricing. Commercial spaces, too, have been negotiated at comparable low prices and are available for business applications. Some of the commercial properties will be adapted for yeshivas, schools, mosdos, and shuls.
In order to avoid extreme price fluctuations, homes will only be sold directly to those committing themselves to live there year round. Purchases as investments will not be accepted. These conditions are being imposed in accordance with halachah as well as with New York State laws. As this project unfolds, when 300 applications have been submitted, a listing will be distributed and everyone will be invited to a general meeting, in order for everyone to meet their new neighbors.
At the present time, the exact location is not being disclosed in order to prevent speculative purchases within the immediate neighborhood. Applicants are encouraged to invite their extended families, friends, and current neighbors to review this special opportunity.
In order to facilitate moving into the new homes and neighborhood, the target date of moving is the summer of 2014. Since many families go to bungalow colonies in the Catskills for the summer, and since the community is north of New York City, moving north during the summer would be an ideal time to ease the transition.
The brochure effectively answers such questions as to why the present time is ripe for such a project. The answer can be found in the hard realization that expenses must be curtailed. The considerable success of chasunah and simcha restrictions, as well as the success in curtailing prices of shtreimels for chasanim, are sterling examples where simple principles of economics have triumphed over ingrained must-do’s and must-have’s.
Further, as opposed to previous plans, the homes already exist. Adequate homes are immediately available for the shtetl’s expansion. The plan will have 500 families move in during the summer of 2014, instantly establishing the new heimishe community.
Support of both rebbes. Of utmost interest is the support that this new project has received. Both Satmar Rebbes (Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum and Rabbi Zalman Leib Teitelbaum) will be represented by their hand-picked delegates. Satmar philanthropists have the opportunity, at pennies per dollar, to establish yeshivas, schools, and shuls. The magnificent opportunity now exists to establish the gemilus chesed fund to enable those without immediate resources to borrow money, interest-free, for purchase and moving expenses. v
Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum is the Rav of B’nai Israel of Linden Heights in Boro Park and Director of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. Rabbi Tannenbaum can be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org.