Jewish New York.

by tobelikeafeatherby

Dear Ellie,

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After being in NYC this weekend I was originally going to write a post about cool places to hang out and eat (of course Time Out can tell you all this, but tried and tested is delicious fish tapas at the John Dory Oyster Bar, baked eggs for brunch in the Meat Packing District, and green tea and wasabi rice at Cafe Supercore in Brooklyn). All I can think about however is my walk in Williamsburg, Brooklyn which led me, not just amidst the trendiest people (seriously- Shoreditch seems understated in comparison), but right in the middle of a Hasidic Jewish community. Since leaving my Catholic school days I seem to be surrounded by Jews. First in my halls in Manchester, and now here in the U.S where I am assumed Jewish. I have started to embrace the religion which more and more I feel is my kindred spirit (too long in the U.S?!) and am fascinated learning about their traditions. I am actually rather annoyed I went to a Blues exhibition at the Whitney Museum (recommended for its collection of American art and location amongst the most beautiful shops and houses) rather than the Jewish Museum round the corner. New York, back when it was New Amsterdam, was home to the first Jewish settlement, hence why the city has such a large Jewish community. Basing my own perception of New York idyllically on Woody Allen’s, Nora Ephron’s, and Charlotte York Goldenblatt’s  is why I forever associate the city with Judaism.

Rabbi Woody Allen

Rabbi Woody Allen

I would be lying if I didn’t admit I was a little overwhelmed and prying of the Orthodox Jew’s that surrounded me in Brooklyn, yet only out of fascination and admiration for a community which upholds tradition so reverently. I have since learnt Williamsburg is home to the second largest hasidic community in the U.S. The women were all dressed similarly to adhere to the rule of Tzniut ‘modest’ attire: a grey or black pencil skirt, a dark cardigan, tights always with a black seam at the back, and a beret (I wear one…) or a Tichel and pale make-up, offset with very pink cheeks. Jewish couples certainly seem to go forth and multiply as they were mostly armed with gangs of little children. According to The New York Times, although only around 19% of American Jews are Orthodox, their high fertility rate will eventually render them the dominant demographic force in New York Jewery. Who said tradition was dying out? I am eager to learn how hasidic communities live in the 21st century. Trying to look for a suitable documentary.

Could be a Wood Allen film.

Could be a Wood Allen film.

Couple courting?

Couple courting?

Children playing.

Children playing.

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Fran Lebovitz

Orthodox Jews aside, I also want to draw your attention to some Jewish New Yorkers I think best embody a side of Judaism that is more relatable. Fran Lebovitz, a typically firm favourite of Vanity Fair, writes humorist essays about well heeled jewish New Yorkers. She also dresses in a way I think you would admire. You know Alex Karpovsky as oh-so-cute ‘Ray’ in Girls. He also directs his own films, most recently Red Flag, paving way for another generation of Allen-esque wit.

Shalom, Sarah xxx

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