Machberes: Inside The Chassidish And Yeshivish World
By Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum
The effort to establish a new Chassidishe community in the greater New York City metropolitan area continues. A home in Williamsburg recently sold for $2.3 million. Almost simultaneously, a home on President Street in Crown Heights was appraised for $3 million. These developments make the purchase of a new home by young couples a near impossibility. The scarcity of suitable apartments, combined with soaring rentals, is burdening the community beyond capacity.
The latest effort was officially announced and reported in Der Blatt, the Yiddish weekly published by followers of Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe. Several Chassidishe philanthropists have acquired large tracts of land in the village of Bloomingburg, Sullivan County, in the Catskills. Bloomingburg, ZIP code 12721, is located 10 miles north of Middletown and 3 miles east of Wurtsboro. According to the 2000 Census, Bloomingburg had 353 people, 146 households, and 94 families residing in the village. The Chassidishe community building effort will dramatically change those numbers. Bloomingburg is served by Exit No. 116 off Route 17.
Foundations for several homes have been poured, and model homes have been opened for display. The contact telephone number is 718-289-0777. The effort is proceeding under the name of Oaktree Developers. Its office is open Mondays through Thursdays, 12:00–4:00 p.m. Oaktree is also offering subsidized mortgages to facilitate sales. Additional information regarding income opportunities and religious organizational efforts will be forthcoming.
In the August 17 issue, the editorial of Der Blatt highlighted the crucial need for new housing efforts. Focusing specifically on Williamsburg, Crown Heights, and Boro Park, the editorial bemoaned the new realities of those neighborhoods’ desirability and popularity. Today, neighborhoods such as Bushwick, Bed Stuy, and Clinton Hill are touted as being right near Williamsburg. Apartments for less than $1,800 are no longer imaginable. Boro Park’s desirability spills over to Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Bay Ridge, Kensington, and Mapleton. The influx of yuppies, Manhattanites, and artists seems to be inexhaustible.
In Israel, the high prices of apartments in Jerusalem and in Bnei Brak generated large new Chassidishe communities such as Ashdod, Aled, Arad, Chatzor, Beth Shemesh (Aleph and Beis), Beitar, etc. If new Chassidishe communities can be established in Israel, there is no reason that such an achievement cannot be replicated here in New York.
The highly successful chasunah takonos campaign to curtail wedding expenses emanated from Kiryas Yoel. Shtreimel prices have been brought down. Chasunahs, sheva berachos, and bar mitzvahs have been made smaller and more reasonably priced. Further, the use of cubic zirconia in place of diamond engagement rings achieved immediate savings of $5,000 on average. The regulation and limitation of chassan and kallah gifts, and the existence of wedding gown gemachs and modest functional furniture offerings, have given large families breathing space in facing the daunting cost of marrying off their children.
Establishing new Chassidishe communities will give newlyweds independence and space for nurturing their relationships away from their mothers and fathers. As the new communities grow, members will interact with each other, forging strong relationships. Most important, the heavy burden of exorbitant rentals and mortgages will have been lifted, giving fresh air to shalom bayis. The editorial boldly articulated a commitment to seeing this project through to success. In the past, proposed projects such as in Sloatsburg, Middletown, and others were strongly endorsed and promoted, but unfortunately failed because of the home-mortgage crisis. As home prices soar beyond reality, a new shtetl campaign becomes an imperative.
Getting To Uman Quicker
Governmental agencies in Ukraine have announced that the Cherkasy Oblast airport was reopened to serve the growing number of visitors to Uman for this Rosh Hashanah. The underused airport was closed several years ago. According to the official announcement, the airport is in excellent repair and only needed new runway lighting to be installed for incoming flights.
Uman Mayor Peter Payevsky expressed his joy in receiving so many visitors for Rosh Hashanah and that he is in negotiations with several defunct rail lines to reestablish rail service from the airport to Uman. In the days leading to Rosh Hashanah, more than 800 buses ferry passengers to Uman daily. The trip takes more than six hours. Once operational, the railway trip from the airport would cut that time in half, a boon for the tens of thousands that come to Uman to be near the gravesite of revered Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, zt’l (1772–1810).
One Step Further
In an innovative program being introduced by the Shomrim organization of Boro Park, the names and contact numbers of apartment and home owners are being compiled. Should a break-in or fire be reported while the owners are away, Shomrim would be able to contact the owner or designated party immediately. Thus, the owner or designated party will be able to respond, secure the home, and take pictures for criminal prosecution and/or insurance purposes. In addition, if a neighbor suspects shady activity and calls Shomrim, owners can be contacted immediately. The name registration has already generated arrests and the immediate return of stolen items. In case an elderly relative or neighbor does not respond to phone calls, Shomrim would know whom to contact. Registration is free. The fax number is 718-535-9026.
For Yom Tov
With thousands of Chassidim converging on the main Satmar Beis Medrash in Williamsburg for the Yomim Noraim, starting with the first day of Selichos, every possible nook and cranny was filled with seats to accommodate the growing number of mispallelim who wish to be with Rabbi Zalman Leib Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe. The number of young newlyweds, in-town and out-of-town, keeps growing impressively.
In order to serve the increasing influx, huge tents have been erected in front of the beis medrash, creating space for five simultaneous minyanim to be held for Selichos and davening. This is in addition to the numerous ongoing minyanim inside the shul. A new minyan begins almost every five minutes without disturbing other minyanim and shiurim. The Rebbe enters the beis medrash at 6:00 a.m. for Selichos recited together with the students of the Satmar Yeshiva. That is followed by an intense Shacharis.
The Va’ad Ha’eishel (hospitality committee) has achieved professional status. Section by section, neighborhood by neighborhood, and country by country, it has organized the information of those needing to provide or rent lodging and those seeking bedding or apartments. In addition, group fares have been arranged for those coming in from Israel, Europe, Canada, Florida, Chicago, and California. With a captive audience, the hospitality committee has organized communal meals as well as pre-packaged meals at great discounts. This is especially beneficial for large families, obviating the need for them to bring and cook large quantities of food. These arrangements will be in place throughout the yomim tovim as well as for the succeeding Shabbos aufruf and Shabbos sheva berachos that will be celebrated by all Satmar Chassidim. The secret telephone number through which all of the above materializes is 718-384-5315, ext. 104. 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 at firstname.lastname@example.org.