Brooklyn – a Walking Tour of South Williamsburg

Brooklyn – a Walking Tour of South Williamsburg

In this walking tour of South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, you will be introduced to the Hasidic community that resettled there after World War II, their institutions and way of life.

The tour will first cover general, historically-significant sites and events in South Williamsburg, especially along Broadway. We will then take a stroll down Bedford Avenue, the “millionaire’s row” of the mid-nineteenth century, and examine what’s left of the stately mansions that those millionaires inhabited and how they evolved over the years to suit the needs of Williamsburg’s newest immigrants.

After Bedford Avenue, we will discuss the significance of the Satmar institutions situated on Rodney street and the BQE vicinity. From there we will turn into Lee ave, the main commercial strip of Hasidic Williamsburg, and we will take note of some fascinating Hasidic consumer patterns, some of which are currently in flux.

This tour is the first of its kind ever to be offered in Williamsburg! Participants will be exposed to a very thorough survey of who’s who and what’s what in South Williamsburg, including the latest scoop about such matters as the Zalmen-Aaron Satmar Succession Feud, housing disputes, political bickering, economic development and the like. Contemporary issues will be discussed with a view toward Jewish Williamsburg’s historical transformation, starting in the mid-nineteenth century when German Jews joined their countrymen on the journey across the Atlantic and provided the basis for Jewish settlement in Williamsburg.

You will learn extensively about the enormous wave of Russian-Polish Jews in the 1880’s-1920’s and we will observe some scattered remnants from that noteworthy historical epoch. Discover how the Russian Jews differed from their German predecessors and how they paved the way for the Hasidic post-WWII Jewish settlement. You will emerge with a much deeper and better understanding of how the Williamsburg community evolved in the past decades and why. You will better understand what motivates Hasidim to remain secluded from mainstream America and how they achieve that.

The tour is conducted every Sunday and Monday at 11:00 a.m. (from April until October). It entails roughly three miles of walking over 3-4 hours, including a lunch break featuring a complimentary item from the menu of authentic Hungarian cuisine. You’ll also learn about the fact that the Cobb Salad was born right here, in Brooklyn. Participants will also receive a bottle of water before the tour begins.

In addition to pointing out the prominent architectural features of significant sites and their noteworthy historical and current inhabitants, you will also learn about the general modus vivendi of Hasidim. That’s one of the reasons why so many people prefer living her rather than in the City.

We will cover over 120 sites, including the following (all major Hasidic institutions and practices will be broached and explained):

  • Peter Luger Steakhouse
  • Williamsburg Savings Bank
  • Kings County Savings Bank
  • Der Yid
  • Gretsch building
  • Bedford Avenue Theatre
  • HASC/Satmar shul-Aaron (former warehouse 396 Berry sS.)
  • Epiphany RC church, originally a New England Congregational Church
  • Seneca Club
  • CRC (Central Rabbinical Congress)
  • Viznitz shul (formerly a police station)
  • Vien shul (former theatre)
  • Satmar shul on Clymer St.
  • Joel Teitelbaum House, a landmarked building
  • Frederick Mollenhauer house; currently owned by Vien
  • Independence Towers and Taylor-Wythe Towers, NYCHA public housing projects
  • Tseleme shul (Millard F. Smith mansion)
  • Hawley mansion
  • Yeshiva Yesode Hatorah of Adas Yereim (elliptical bay window building); currently owned by Skver
  • Rodney St. main Satmar Synagogue.
  • Women’s Bikur Holim (comfort of the sick) of Satmar
  • Kehal Haredim and Kolel Hibath Yerushalayim of Rebbe Meir Baal Ha-nes
  • Beth Midrash Kavanas Halev (Krasna) and Hemed Neitra (formerly Stolineh shul)
  • Cong. Yetev Lev main office, 163 Rodney St.
  • Kaff’s bakery
  • Kasho on ross st.
  • Satmar butcher store
  • Viznitz Talmud Torah Tsemach Tsadik
  • Green and Ackerman restaurant
  • BQE corner Marcy and Division
  • Williamsburg Library
  • Eastern District High School (currently Beth Rachel girl middle school)
  • Satmar Zupnik mikveh (ritual bath)
  • Yeshivah Torah Veyirah Satmar heder (boy school)
  • Beth Midrash Hisachdus Avrechim of Satmar, donated by Zupnik.
  • Beth Din Tzedek (righteous court) of Satmar
  • Grill on Lee
  • Donath (Hertzog) wine
  • Munkatch and Belz shul
  • Vayoel Moshe wedding hall
  • YWCA (later YMHA; currently owned by Spinka)
  • Klausenberg girl school (Hewes St.); formerly Lutheran Church of the Redeemer; later Congregation Bene Israel.
  • Pupa Central shul
  • Hevrah Hatzalah (Rescue Society, a volunteer ambulance service)
  • Kings Terrace (currently Tehiloth Yoel Satmar shul)
  • Mantevidea shul by Rabbi Avraham Leitner
  • Continental Hall
  • Yeshivah Torah Veyirah across the St.
  • Central UTA (Aaron’s Satmar institutional headquarters)
  • Mendelle’s Viznitz (under construction, former zipper manufacturer)
  • ODA (Opportunity for Development Association, a community advocacy and support group)
  • Kolel Shomre Hahomoth (advanced institute for Talmudical studies, literally “Gatekeepers”)
  • Pointe Plaza Hotel
  • PS 71 (currently Beth Rachel pre-grade school)
  • Skvere shul (on Heyward St.)
  • Oneg bakery
  • Keren Hatzalah (rescue fund)
  • Church of the Transfiguration
  • Keap St. Temple K.K. Beth Elohim (currently Papa girl school)
  • and many more…

Institutions:

  • ODA (opportunity development association)
  • Rescue Fund (keren hatzalah)
  • Rav Tuv (spiritual support for estranged Jews)
  • Yad Le-Achim (a lending hand for brothers)
  • CRC (central rabbinical council)
  • UJO (United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg)
  • Rescue Society (hevrah hatzalah)
  • Shomrim (security patrol volunteers)
  • Seneca Club (former Democratic party organization)
  • Der Yid (yiddish-language newspaper)
  • Beth Din Tsedek (religious judgment court)
  • Beth Midrash (study halls for Talmud)
  • Kolel (study program for married men)

Practices:

  • Mikveh (ritual bath)
  • Prayer and Torah study (beth midrash/shul)
  • Educational Institutions
  • Weddings
  • Dress
  • Language
  • Eruv controversy (symbolic integration of properties)
  • Recent changes in fast food consumption patterns
  • Barrier creation for separation from the mainstream
  • Sukkah hut for the festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles)
  • Residential expansion into “New Williamsburg”
  • and much more…

A very interesting page about Brooklyn’s interesting history is found here.