Hasidic Jews in American Schools
We all live in such a diverse world, but do we know exactly how diverse it is? Our culture consists of African Americans, all of varying descent. Some originate from the Caribbean, or from African descent, just like how we have Caucasians, German, Russian, or even Jews. Within the Jewish community they have a host of different cultures that make them all Jewish in the end. Certain surviving Hasidic Jews went to Antwerp, London, or Montreal, however most of them went to Israel and to the United States. It was the year 1951 when the Hasidic Jews came from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, and Poland in sight of a new life (“A Life Apart: Hasidism In America”, 1). It has been said that New York City has served as the capital of the larger American Jewish community throughout the 20th century.
Once migrating to New York Hasidic Jews were settling in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn which became their new home. The biggest Hasidic groups were settling in Williamsburg were of Hungarian origin, the Satmar and the Klausenberg. They quickly took over part of the neighborhood, which is on Lee Avenue, they turned this street into the rebbe’s residence and besmedresh of the Klausenbergers, and Hungarian, and Yiddish became the languages of this new Jewish community. Although we have different neighborhoods of Brooklyn that also developed into Hasidic centers such as Crown Heights and Boro Park; nevertheless they formed at a slower rate than Williamsburg. In the years of 1966-67 most of the court and the Rebbe moved to the Boro Park section, which is the home to the Munkach, the Ger, Belz and the Stoliner. Presently, the Hasidic population in Boro Park is currently expanding rapidly.
“The emphasis on a religious education for Hasidic boys developed into a network of distinctive Eastern European yeshivas, producing more Hasidic scholars and rabbis to serve far-flung communities” (Morris, 1). It became clear that the young Hasidic women were hungry for literacy in which they pursued education through secular state schools. Education for these girls had developed in Eastern Europe by Sarah Schenirer in Poland; she founded the Bais Ya’akov school system. “This educational awakening of Hasidic women not incidentally paralleled feminist movements in prewar Western Europe” (Morris, 3). The new Hasidic girls’ academies only lasted one generation due its destruction in the Holocaust. Hasidim fled their Hasidic village after the Nazi Holocaust swept the area turning them into death camps. During the years of 1920s to the 1950’s a lot of displaced Hasidic leaders, followers, activist, and refugees seek a new life and flowed into low-income Jewish communities in Brooklyn. The females in the Hasidic group have served as an important agent of family life and faith in the transmission of Hasidic belief to new generations of followers; also their public roles increased with educational experience. The most profound postwar changes overall has been the schooling for girls. “The rapid expansion of Hasidic parochial schools and girls' yeshivas, however, has not meant that women have joined the ranks of scholarly men as religious authority figures rendering interpretation of Jewish law” (Morris, 5). It is said to be the main focus of the girls’ schools is to serve to protect Hasidic daughters from the secular influences of the outside society instead of having them be introduced to the more advanced Talmudic curriculum of the boys’ education. However the girls’ curriculum does not parallel the boys’ curriculum. “In the case of boys, only minimal time is devoted to secular education-usually not more than a couple of hours in the afternoon-and by age sixteen such studies are terminated for both sexes” (“Kinship, marriage and family – Hasidim”, 4).
Healing Leaves: Prescriptions for Inner Strength, Meaning and Hope, by: Noson Sternhartz
Holy Days: The World of A Hasidic Family, by: Liz Harris
Hasidic Williamsburg: A Contemporary Study of an American Hasidic Community, by: William Kranzler
Roberts, S. (2011, April 20). A Village With the Numbers, Not the Image, of the Poorest Place. The New York Times.
Rosenak, M., & Rosenak, A. (2009). Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik and Aspects of Jewish Educational Philosophy: Explorations in his Philosophical Writings. Journal of Jewish Education, 75(2), 114-29. doi: 10.1080/15244110902885327
Novak, D. (2011). The man-made Messiah. First Things, 32-6. Retrieved from Humanities Full Text database
Demographics, Statistics, Charts, etc.
- Ø “Although the estimation of numbers is difficult, the Lubavitcher and Satmar constitute the two largest groups, with approximately 25,000 followers in their respective areas of Brooklyn, New York. A current estimate of the number of Hasidic Jews in North America is Between 90,000 to 100,000. The Hasidic population of Montreal is but a fraction of its New York counterpart—it numbers some 4,000 persons. Outside of New York and Montreal, the Hasidic population is relatively small. The exception is the Lubavitch sect, which has created nuclei of Communities throughout North America. Several Hasidic sects have established enclaves to remain shielded from the urban environment. Three such settlements include New Square, near Spring Valley, New York; Kiryas Yoel, in Monroe County, New York, named after the previous Satmar rebbe; and Tash in Boisbriand, Quebec, established by the Tasher rebbe” (Shaffir, p.4).
- Ø The village of Kiryas Joel, in the town of Monroe in Orange County, where the vast majority of the residents are Ultra-Orthodox Satmar Hasidic Jews. Household incomes are among the country's lowest.
- Ø Kiryas Joel’s breakneck growth — incorporated in 1977, it grew by 58 percent, to 20,989 residents from 13,273, from 2000 to 2007.
- Ø The three largest Hasidic Jewish communities in New York City are located in Brooklyn. They are in the Crown Heights, Williamsburg, and Borough Park. Now Brooklyn has the greatest concentration of Jews with 456,000, followed by Manhattan, which has 243,000 Jews. In Nassau County, outside the city limits, there are now 221,000 Jews. 129,000 live in Westchester and Suffolk has 90,000 Jews. The State of New York has 1,657,000 Jews, which makes us about 9.1% of the New York State population of 19 million.
Borough Park, Williamsburg & Crown Heights
I am 35 years old and been married for 12 years. I have 3 children, two boys and a girl ages 10, 7 and 5. My family and I currently live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York. I am originally from Safed, Israel, but moved to The United States when I was a little child with my father, mother, and 4 other siblings.
1. Why did you leave your country of origin? I left Safed, Israel with my family in 1980.
2. Do you feel boys were put on a higher pedal stool than girls in regards to education? Males were raised to become men of their household and were directed to have a good education to support a family one day.
3. Why did you choose New York over other states? There are larger communities in New York City, but I also had a few relatives living in Brooklyn, NY before I came to this country.
4. What do you like about New York that is different from your country? I have been in NYC most of my life and enjoy being in a city. Israel is a lot different from when I first left my country and has a lot more buildings but it is still a lot different from NYC.
5. Did you feel lower than the boys while growing up? As a little girl, the way boys and girls grew up was all I know. The male is to be the head of the household and education was very important. Israeli women have strict guidelines to follow. I do believe some people that are not of our same custom believe that we may be looked at as a lower class, but that is what we know.
6. Do you know why your parents decided to settle in Williamsburg or the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn? Williamsburg was the only place my family knew of before coming to this country. We had other relatives living here before we moved to the United States.
7. Did you ever want to try attending a NYC public school rather than a Jewish school? I have never been to a public school. Members of my family have all attended Jewish schools in our community in Williamsburg.
8. Where your experiences the same as they were in your native country compared to you living here now? I believe they are the same because we follow the same traditions and customs as we have when we were living in Safed.
9. Do you still believe the role of women is to protect Hasidic daughters from the secular influences of the outside society? Due to being a part of strict religion, we prefer not to allow room for society to become a part of our lives because religion and society do not abide by the same guidelines.
10. In your household what do you do different that your children are born here in the states opposed to your upbringing in your native country? I am a traditional Jewish woman and believe in raising my children the same way my parents have raised me.
I am 50 years old and been married for 25 years. I have 5 children, 3 boys and 2 girl ages 24, 22, 18, 15, and 12. My family and I currently live in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York. I am originally from Jerusalem, Israel, but moved to The United States when I was 2 years old with my father, mother, and 2 other siblings.
1. Why did you leave your country of origin?
I came over here with my parents in 1963, I was 2 years old at the time. Very young, too young to remember why we left.
2. Do you feel boys were put on a higher pedal stool than girls in regards to education?
No our education is pretty much the same. We were just educated separately but it is the same thing. Boys are treated differently than girls anyway but for the most part I believe our education is the same. In our religion what they teach at home, they teach at school and in our synagogue (church), this is called the intense plan.
3. Why did you choose New York over other states?
My parents were coming to join the rest of my family who had migrated to New York before us. They had a job and everything set up for me and my family when we arrived here.
4. What do you like about New York that is different from your country?
I like the diversity of people, even though we really do not interact with them as much. I like that it is a lot of different cultures and heritage. It is nice to see more than your own kind sometimes, different races living together.
5. Did you feel lower than the boys while growing up?
Not really, because even though they treat us differently, girls and boys, it is no different from any other religion or culture. They taught the boys to be leaders and protectors and the girls how to take care of the household.
6. Do you know why your parents decided to settle in Williamsburg or the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn?
No, I am not too sure but if I can guess why, It would properly be because that is where the most of our kind are and they probably wanted to be with their own kind in a this new environment that they have migrated to.
7. Did you ever want to try attending a NYC public school rather than a Jewish school?
Yes, because I would have love to see the difference in our schools. Even if it was for a day but in our religion we are prohibited from attending secular schools because they do not teach what we believe and that is the intense plan.
8. Were your experiences the same as they were in your native country compared to you living here now?
Over there everyone is the same, over here there is a lot of exposure to different things that can be very tempting and distract one from our religious ways. I mean you can go astray in your own native country too but over here there are so many different religions and cultures that it can be alluring.
9. Do you still believe the role of women is to protect Hasidic daughters from the secular influences of the outside society?
Yes, I believe it is a women’s role to protect her daughters from secular influences. To keep them from temptation, and to keep them from going astray from their religious teachings.
10. In your household what do you do different that your children are born here in the states opposed to your upbringing in your native country?
The only difference is, that I have to be more strict because it is more different here than in my native country. We are the majority in my country and here we are the minority to many different other cultures. Also the times are different from when I was growing up in this country and now. I have to keep my children from the secular influences round them and teach them not to be tempted by it.
I am a 23 year old Hasidic Jew. I came to live in the United States 8 years ago, and now share a home with my husband of 3 years and soon to be baby boy. I am about 7 months pregnant and came to New York to live a better life. My family thought that it would be better to live in the U.S because back home there were difficulties. I now reside in a part of Brooklyn called Borough Park and live in a lovely neighborhood alongside of other Hasidic Jews.
- 1. Why did you leave your country of origin?
I Left my country of origin because my parents thought it was best to experience a better lifestyle.
- 2. Do you feel boys were put on a higher pedal stool than girls in regards to education?
Yes I feel that boys are put on a higher pedal stools then us females. Our education systems are more advanced when it come to the males.
- 3. Why did you choose New York over other states?
After my mom had suggested that we leave she had heard from close friends and relatives that NY was the best place to live the life she had wanted for us.
- 4. What do you like about New York that is different from your country
I like the fact that in New York people have more choices then we do at home, and that schools do not look at whether you are a girl or boy but they judge based upon your IQ level instead.
- 5. Did you feel lower than the boys while growing up?
Growing up I did feel me as a female was on a lower level then a male was. I felt very belittled as a person and hated the fact that men got treated as a higher class then we were.
- 6. Do you know why your parents decided to settle in Williamsburg or the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn?
My parents really did not tell me why they specifically picked Borough park as our place of residence but judging on how comfortable they were I think they felt closer to home with the nearby neighbors living here.
- 7. Did you ever want to try attending a NYC public school rather than a Jewish school?
I have always wanted to attend a NYC School, I would love to see how many people from different parts of our world interact with each other and yet get treated the same whether male or female, black or white, asian or Guyanese, rather then to sit in a Jewish School.
- 8. Where your experiences the same as they were in your native country compared to you living here now?
No my experiences are not the same as they were in my native country, I feel more free living here then I did living there.
- 9. Do you still believe the role of women is to protect Hasidic daughters from the secular influences of the outside society?
Yes I do believe that the role of women is to protect Hasidic daughters from the secular influences of the outside society because that is how I was brought up and that is the only thing that I know.
- 10. In your household what do you do different that your children are born here in the states opposed to your upbringing in your native country?
Being brought up the way I was I would allow for my children not to believe in everything my parents taught me I would want for them to go out and enjoy life and not be held down by the impression that males and females should be taught differently or that each sex has a different role. I would want them to learn as an equal.
While researching about Hasidic Jews I became overwhelmed. It was quite difficult to obtain information on this group. However, I was shocked by the information I came across. I often thought the females were put on a higher pedal stool then males when it came down to their education. However based on my research, it proved me wrong. The males were the dominant ones in the Hasidic Jews society. In education alone the females were inferior to males. Also in this community I found out they are poor. While conducting my interview what struck me the most was the persistence of the females to continue to live up to their role of protecting Hasidic daughters from secular influences of the outside society. The three ladies basically told me the same information, they would rather protect Hasidic daughters because the American Society is on that is very much different from Hasidic Jews. Since most Hasidic Jews speak only Yiddish I think it would be a great idea to implement free English classes in their neighborhood. In the Hasidic community I came across them being dealing poverty on the worst level as possible. I would like to create jobs that are directed to helping Hasidic families to earn a decent wage to take care of their families. Also for them to get enough food is a problem alone, I believe they should have food drives to help assist the family with more food.
Diaz, R., & (Eds.), R. S. (2010). Beyond Stereotyopes: Minority Children of Immigrants in Urban Schools. Rotterdam: Sense.
Morris, B. (n.d.). Hasidic Women in the United States - My Jewish Learning. Judaism & Jewish Life - My Jewish Learning. Retrieved May 7, 2011, from http://www.myjewishlearning.com/history/Jewish_World_Today/Denominations/Chabad-Lubavitch/Hasidic_Women_in_the_United_states.shtml
Roberts, S. (2011, April 20). A Village With the Numbers, Not the Image, of the Poorest Place. The New York Times. Retrieved April 21, 2011, from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/21/nyregion/kiryas-joel-a-village-with-the-numbers-not-the-image-of-the-poorest-place.html?_r=2&pagewanted=1&emc=eta1
Shaffir, William. "Hasidim." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. 1996. Retrieved May 7, 2011 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3458000091.html