I went for my first run through Brooklyn this afternoon. It was interesting to say the least. First of all I have never really run through a city. I am more a suburbanite who enjoys running through a nice park or through the winding roads of a friendly neighborhood. So having to “look both ways” at each intersection, pass by millions of people (mind you all with their heads down at their phone making my run turn into a little martial arts as I leapt over trash bags and veered sharply from fire hydrants) was different. Luckily no casualties occurred 🙂
I did get to see a wide variety of people, places and things.
The first group I came to were kids getting off the bus from school. Some had the iPhone glued to their hand or iPod plugged into their ears (like my familiar suburbanites). Other groups of boys were pushing each other and a group of girls were talking so loudly at one another I could make out every word with my ear buds in. The most surprising thing in this group was the language coming out of most everyone’s mouths. I was shocked to hear elementary school kids dropping the f-bomb in front of the crossing guard!
Finally I got to Grand Street and turned the corner away from the schools. It was funny because this street is home to about a million 99¢ stores. There were even a few bars that I wouldn’t mind checking out sometime. Little hole in the wall places–you never know.
Then I came to the river and along with it a fellow runner (the only other one I saw today). It was quiet down by the Williamsburg Bridge and a lot of old factories lined the street.
I made my way down the road until I got to the heart of Williamsburg: Bedford Avenue. I turned the street and there were a very large number of people dressed in black. It was as if I entered a party without the dress code memo. I almost felt wrong jogging along in my spandex pants and Nike zip-up.
If you know anything about this area of Brooklyn you know that the people I had just bumped into were the Hasidic Jewish community. Due to their distinct style of dress and hair cut (for the men), they are an easily recognizable sector of the Jewish faith and a lot of them live in Brooklyn.
The first time I noticed a family dressed this was actually at Elis Island the weekend I visited with the French boys. I saw a woman and her many children visiting the museum and the boy with them had long curly sideburns. I figured they were foreign, but not that they most likely lived in Brooklyn. Then as I was moving in last weekend I drove by a large group of black clad men with huge furry hats. My dad mentioned that they were Hasidic Jews and this spiked my interest. So when I stumbled upon the neighborhood today, where a large number of this group resides, I knew I had to do some more research about what they stood for and the reason behind their distinct look.
What I found out was complex to me; one who does not study religions. In basic terms this sector of the Jewish faith began as a reaction against the over legalistic Judaism during the 18th century in Eastern Europe. The most prominent thing I noticed was the dress and hair. To me it seemed they all dressed the same but in fact there are many different groups of Hasidic Jews and each has a slight variation. It was also interesting to read that their style was a non theological practice. It is mostly based on historical and sociological reasons.
The hair however, that idea comes from a biblical commandment to not shave one’s face. They first shave a boy at age 3 and usually all the hair except for the sideburns is shaven off.
It all interests me so much and I would love to learn more about my new neighbors.
This move is already more eye-opening than I had imagined.