Retrofitting Suburbia Hasidic Style

14 thoughts on “Retrofitting Suburbia Hasidic Style”

  1. What a fair article
    Correct Lakewoods Jews for the most part are not Hasidic
    I like in lakewood and am an Arabic Jew
    I barely know any hasidim

  2. 1. Very interesting to see this story covered from the “stealth urban planning” angle.
    2. In contrast to the attitude you describe here, Italians and other “white ethnics” often made their peace with Orthodox Jewish communities to stand their ground in urban neighborhoods with single-family housing stock. Several still-stable areas of Brooklyn and Queens follow this pattern. The pragmatic slogan is “Better Jews/Asians than Blacks” .

  3. Lakewood has traditionally been dominated by “Yeshivish” Jews- they are ultra-Orthodox (that is, less interested in secular education than modern Orthodox Jews, and more distinctive generally) but not Hasidic. Hasidim swear allegiance to a specific sect or rebbe (unlike Yeshivish), tend to be a bit more mystical, and dress differently. Yeshivish Jews wear black hats but are less likely to wear huge furry hats (shtreimels) and are sometimes clean-shaven (unlike Hasidim).

    These young men are Yeshivish:

    Having said that, it may be that Hasidim are starting to move into Lakewood- the people in the photo certainly look Hasidic.

  4. For the record, the Jews of Lakewood aren’t Hasidim. I suppose they all look alike to outsiders, but that doesn’t make the description correct.

    1. Are Lakewood’s Jews predominantly Lubavitcher? What would be the correct term? Is this like me confusing Protestants with Catholics, or is it more fine grained like Episcopalians vs. Presbyterians?

  5. This is pretty interesting to me. I remember that there was a large Hasidic Jewish community in Rockland County, NY just north of the NJ state line. Suburbanites are always on the lookout and guard against non-conforming uses be they structural, cultural or biological. If Toms River becomes predominately Orthodox, but also has a high birth rate of children who do not attend public schools, what will happen to the town?

    One thing that has always fascinated me is how the densely populated NE has kept these little, affluent small towns around NYC, Boston, and Washington, places that zone homes on enormous plots of land, surrounded by woods. The newer housing that obliterated the farms and the forests, is now declining in value, because it is not near public transportation or walkable downtowns. So perhaps now it is natural that these McMansions are being sought after by large families looking for affordable housing.

    1. I need to keep these blog posts short otherwise people don’t read them, so I skip a lot of details.

      I grew up partly in LA, partly in Queens, and partly in Toms River. Toms River is dominated by families like mine whose great grandparents filled the tenement slums and sweatshops of New York a century ago. We’re Sicilians, Greeks, Irish, Poles, and secular Jews – what my friends and I call the “white ethnics” as opposed to the once-dominant Protestant culture of the Dutch, German, and English. Toms River exists in its current form wholly as a result of white flight after the race riots in the 1960’s.

      Lakewood was always the distressed “urban” town that had the only real concentration of poor black people in the county. For decades the authorities in Toms River (the county seat) did everything they could to “contain” Lakewood and its “troubled” population and to prevent tax money from drifting away from suburban communities toward the “undeserving” population of sad little Lakewood. As the Latino population of the county grew Puerto Ricans and Mexicans settled in Lakewood too since it was affordable. Again, the county authorities had no interest in brown people and just tried to keep the situation limited to an already “undesirable” location. The schools were always intentionally underfunded by the white majority. County services were never especially generous or prioritized.

      The Hasidim migrated to Lakewood when they could no longer expand in their old neighborhoods in Brooklyn. The community cranks out 4,000 new babies a year and they just ran out of space. Lakewood had lots of large old run down historic homes at reasonable prices. Many of the older shops in town were vacant and semi-abandoned. “A land without people for a people without land” as the saying goes. They didn’t care about the public schools since their kids went to Yeshivas. They didn’t care about crime since they were a cohesive group who could defend themselves by sheer numbers. So gradually Lakewood became more and more Orthodox. The folks in Toms River shrugged. Poor black and brown people… weird ultra religious Jews… Who cares? It’s Lakewood. “Whatever.”

      Now that Lakewood’s Hasidic population is seriously ramping up and spilling over into Toms River the County is about to experience a serious demographic tipping point. Folks are freaking out. What the orthodox are doing is building a new Brooklyn in the ‘burbs. It’s just a matter of time before the county government will be dominated by elected officials from Lakewood and policy shifts will reflect the values of the new majority. So be it.

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