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Friday, November 29, 2013

The Satmar Jews from Brooklyn

1936: Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum greeting King Carol II of Romania
no copyright infringement intended

Pola Rapaport recommends the short documentary embedded in the video below. She lives now in Williamsburg, a large neighborhood in Brooklyn with a strong Satmar Jewish community presence: a Hasidic sect originating in the city of Satu Mare. Despite their so traditional ways of behaving the Satmar Jewish history is actually very recent: the sect was founded in 1905. By that time Satu Mare belonged to the Austro-Hungarian empire. Now it is part of Romania.

I visited Pola several times and I was always impressed seeing how these people looked like in their clothing. And I asked myself every time whether is it good or bad to look so out of touch with the modern life. And more than that, what's really behind this out of touch clothing style. Wouldn't it be better to plunge from shtetl and ritual into the Sturm und Drang of the modern world? (I'm quoting here Roger Cohen) The documentary recommended by Pola lets them presenting themselves and, which raises another question: is it really all this so idyllic? Pola might be fascinated with their ways, I would prefer the ways of Roger Cohen.

Nowadays more and more immigrants from Latin America are settling in Williamsburg, and the kids of the two communities play together on the streets. And maybe the answers to my questions could come from these kids playing together.

(Pola Rapaport)

(New York, New York)

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