WILLIAMSBURG

“Hasidic Jewish community

Williamsburg is inhabited by tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews of various sects, and contains the headquarters of one faction of the Satmar Hasidic group, Williamsburg’s Satmar population numbers about 73,000.

Hasidic Jews first moved to the neighborhood in the years prior to World War II, along with many other religious and non-religious Jews who sought to escape the difficult living conditions on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Beginning in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the area received a large concentration of Holocaust survivors, many of whom were Hasidic Jews from rural areas of Hungary and Romania. These people were led by several Hasidic leaders, among them the rebbes of Satmar, Klausenberg, Vien, Pupa, Tzehlem, and Skver. In addition, Williamsburg contained sizable numbers of religious, but non-Hasidic Jews. The rebbe of Satmar, Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, ultimately exerted the most powerful influence over the community, causing many of the non-Satmars, especially the non-Hasidim, to leave. Teitelbaum was known for his fierce anti-Zionism and for his charismatic but abrasive style of leadership.

In 1997 there were about 7,000 Hasid families in Williamsburg. About 33% took public assistance. The Hasidic community of Williamsburg has one of the highest birthrates in the country, with an average of eight children per family. Each year the community celebrates between 800 and 900 weddings for young couples, who typically marry between the ages of 18 and 21. Because Hasidic men receive little secular education, and women tend to be homemakers, college degrees are rare, and economic opportunities lag far behind the rest of the population. In response to the almost 60% poverty rate in Jewish Williamsburg, the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, a beneficiary agency of the UJA-Federation of New York, partnered with Masbia in the opening of a 50-seat kosher soup kitchen on Lee Avenue in November 2009.

In recent years, with the gentrification of North Williamsburg, Hasidim have fought to retain the character of their neighborhood and have characterized the influx of what they call the artisten as a “plague” and “a bitter decree from Heaven.” Tensions have risen over housing costs, loud and boisterous nightlife events, and the introduction of bike lanes along Bedford Avenue.”

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