Thursday, November 08, 2012

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New Square Secular?

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths


A co-worker, a middle aged Israeli woman, thin and dressed casually in pants and a modern style (an average Israeli secular look) rushed into my office.  “Akiva, I need you to complete form A and submit process B right away!”  I responded ok, never a fan of paperwork but what can you do?  Then she asked me an odd question, “Do you have family in the U.S. northeast Jewish communities?  Were they affected by the storm?”

Odd because for the average secular Israeli storm Sandy was just another natural disaster in the world.  Within Jewish religious circles, with major Jewish communities in New York City (Brooklyn, Flatbush, Boro Park, Williamsburg, 5 Towns, etc), New Jersey (Lakewood, Passaic, Teaneck, etc) and surrounding areas (Adelphia NJ, Monsey NY, etc), we probably have some family or close friends that were affected.  (In my personal case I have both.)  So the impact is “close and personal”.

I mentioned I do and where, and asked her why?  She said her family was without power for a time in New Square.  New Square?!?

New Square is a monolithic chassidic orthodox Jewish community in upstate New York, populated exclusively by Skver chassidim.  They are an isolated closed suburban community, striving to recreate the positive religious aspects of the European shtetl environment.

A connection with New Square is about as far away from secular Israel as one can be within the Jewish world!

I’m not sure what the point of this encounter was beyond the surprise.  Perhaps it’s simply we’re all closer and more obviously one people than we think.  My seemingly secular co-worker is from a chassidic Jewish background, relating to both my religious choices and the religious community and family impact of a storm on the other side of the world (from our office in Israel). 

We’re all connected.  We may not know how (until we sit for a bit and find out), but the connection will not be denied.


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