web analytics
November 28, 2014 / 6 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
IDC Herzliya Campus A Day on Campus

To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.



So Different Yet Similar

Front-Page-062912

Music played loudly while the men danced. On the women’s side of the mechitzah, we tried to speak over the sounds. I leaned over the table to hear what my co-worker’s wife was saying.

“Well, because we are both Belz, it just made sense,” Zeldy said with a smile, then continued picking at the chicken on her plate.

“The Belzer Rebbe even had a hand in our shidduch; he told both of our parents that it was a good idea.”

“By the time a young couple meets,” another woman, Toby, piped in, “the families know so much about each other. All that remains is for the couple to meet. They sometimes even get engaged that night. I remember when my brother was about to meet a girl for the first time, I caught my mother buying candy for a party, and I said, ‘Ma! You’ve already decided they’re getting engaged?’ But they actually did. They got engaged that night!” Toby said with a laugh.

Wow, I thought to myself. We come from such different worlds.

When I arrived home that night after the bar mitzvah of my boss’s son, I thought to myself how interesting it had been to interact with other Jews – but how strange it was not knowing much at all about their lifestyle.

Growing up as a second-generation Lubavitcher in Houston, the only chassidim to whom I had been exposed were the Chabad rabbis in my community. (And I never met the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who lived in New York from 1941 until his passing in 1994.)

My hometown community is an eclectic mix of observant Jews from various backgrounds, and as a child I was exposed to secular ideas and curriculums. Then, while attending a Lubavitch seminary in Israel, I observed other chassidim from afar.

I soon moved to Crown Heights to live near friends while attending university, and picked up the concentrated Lubavitch culture fairly quickly.

It was only four years later, when working alongside Belz, Satmar, and Bobov chassidim for a magazine based in Boro Park, that I developed an intense curiosity about the customs and lifestyle of these chassidim that seemed so different from my own.

Everything from their pronunciation of the holidays to the different ways they each curled their peyos to the mayonnaise-packed dishes for sale every few shops made me dizzy.

The chassidim around me at work periodically gave me a glimpse into their culture, but all I could see was how vastly theirs differed from mine. Still, I continued to observe them from a distance, figuring they valued their privacy.

Earlier that week I had attended a Satmar wedding. Everything seemed so new and exciting to me, but there was something that bothered me. These are my fellow Jews, I thought. Why do their ways seem so foreign to me?

Separate seating I was used to. The chuppah was traditionally Jewish. The fathers swayed back and forth in deep concentration as the bride approached the groom, stepping to the side as she encircled him seven times. The women looked radiant, angelic.

But some of the customs were, well, different. The mothers walked the bride down to the chuppah with an extra covering on their heads. The bride came down to the wedding reception with a wig on, her hair nowhere to be seen.

I had seen some of the customs before, of course. But there was a certain innocence, a purity I sensed, that made me yearn to know these people better. I looked at the girls around me and I ached inside; I didn’t quite know my own sisters, whom I loved nonetheless.

I decided to spend a Shabbos in Boro Park.

* * * * *

After lighting candles on Friday night, I left the house where I was staying to walk quickly through the raindrops to my co-worker’s house. Every person I passed rushed by me, looking in the other direction.

Soon I realized they were all men, so I should not expect a greeting nor should I offer one – of any kind. Men and women keep to their own gender in this neighborhood, I reminded myself. Greetings cannot be called out like in my hometown. Finally I spotted a woman and called out, “Good Shabbos,” to which she smiled and wished me the same.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

2 Responses to “So Different Yet Similar”

  1. Chaiya Eitan says:

    I found all of it very strange. I would not want to live like that.

  2. Leah Urso says:

    Many Lubavitchers also cover their hair with a sheital hair after chupah.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Soldiers start asking questions after Arab sniper narrowly misses killing Jewish motorist on Highway 60, south of Jerusalem.
PA Sniper Gunman Shoots at Jewish Driver on Highway 60 near Hebron
Latest Indepth Stories
Greiff-112814-Levaya

My son is seventeen; he didn’t want to talk about what happened, or give any details of the Rosh Yeshiva’s words of chizuk.

Protesters in Ferguson, Missouri

All involved in the Ferguson debate should learn the laws pertinent to non-Jews: the Noahide Laws.

Charley Levine

Prominent Jewish leaders acknowledged that their predecessors had mistreated the Bergson Group.

Cravatts-Richard--new

Abbas has been adding new layers of rhetoric to his tactical campaign to de-Judaize Jerusalem

The Jew’s crime is his presence.

Hamas’s love for death tried to have as many Palestinian civilians killed as possible

Israel recognizes the fabrication called a Palestinian nation; So what do we want from the Swedes?

Arab attacking Jews in the land date back a century, long before Israel was created or in control.

Creativity without clarity is not sufficient for writing. I am eternally thankful to Hashem for his gift to me.

Golden presents a compelling saga of poor but determined immigrants who fled pogroms and harsh conditions in their homelands for a better life in a land of opportunity.

It seems to us that while the Jewish entitlement to the land of Israel transcends the Holocaust, the Jewish experience during that tragic time is the most solid of foundations for these “national rights.”

Too many self-styled civil rights activists seemed determined to force, by their relentless pressure, an indictment regardless of what an investigation might turn up.

Unfortunately, at present, the rabbinate does not play a positive role in preventing abuse.

Egypt’s al-Sisi is in an expansionist mood. He wants Israel’s permission to take over Judea and Samaria.

More Articles from Yonit Tanenbaum
Front-Page-062912

Music played loudly while the men danced. On the women’s side of the mechitzah, we tried to speak over the sounds. I leaned over the table to hear what my co-worker’s wife was saying.

Young volunteer from Philadelphia presents gift to child at Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan.

Huge plush teddy bears greet me as soon as I walk through the door. Puzzles line the shelves along with boxes of Lego and dress-up clothes. Every few inches another toy. Another game. Another child’s dream.

An unparalleled musical production featuring 39 Jewish music superstars made its worldwide debut Thursday at the Jewish Children’s Museum in Crown Heights. “Unity for Justice” is a unique display of solidarity for the family of incarcerated Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, whose sentencing of 27 years in federal prison last year has led to a thunderous outcry by the Jewish community and a number of government officials. The project serves as an innovative campaign for financial support of the Rubashkin Defense Fund, drawing mounting online interest by the hour.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/so-different-yet-similar/2012/06/27/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: