More than a hundred thousand ultra-orthodox, Hasidic Jews live in New York’s Brooklyn. Most of them have Hungarian ancestors, who were forced to live their birthplace during the dark ages of the 20th century. In the “New World”, they rebuilt their community but did not forget where they came from. Therefore, one can run into a lot of Hungarian inscriptions in Brooklyn. Offbeat Budapest has collected these in a thorough article recently.
According to the news site, “at about South 9th Street, a strikingly different world emerges; gone are the designer stores, stylish hipsters, and luxury high-rises. Instead, a secluded world of ultra-Orthodox Jews appears.”
People wear their traditional clothes. Men have hats, long beards, side curls, and black coats from which the white fringes of their prayer shawls hang. Meanwhile, bewigged women wear long black skirts “navigate the streets with baby strollers and roving children.” Everything is kosher. Restaurants, grocery stores have Yiddish inscriptions making this part of Brooklyn a surreal experience for every visitor.
Most people living there originate from Hungary, so it is not hard to find somebody, who talks Hungarian.
Hasidic Judaism, an ultra-orthodox branch of Orthodox Judaism, was popular in the northeastern parts of the Kingdom of Hungary in the 19th century. This territory belongs today to Ukraine, and it is called Transcarpathia. Still, more than 120 thousand Hungarians live there, but almost no Hungarian Jews.
Unlike the Jews living in cities and Budapest, Hasidic Jews did not want to assimilate. They “held to the ancient traditions and formed large hereditary dynasties (or sects) under the strict guidance of a revered grand rebbe. After the Holocaust, when nearly all were killed, the survivors fled Hungary and
rebuilt their communities from the ashes in the newly formed Israel and the United States”– Offbeat Budapest wrote.
Today more than 150,000 ultra-orthodox Jews are living in Brooklyn having Hungarian ancestors. The biggest dynasty is Satmar, named after the Hungarian town Szatmárnémeti. It is now in Romania, but half of its population still speaks Hungarian. Satmar Meat is also a chain of kosher butcher shops with locations in Williamsburg and Borough Park.
Other major Hungarian Hasidic groups in Brooklyn include the Munkatch (Munkács), Popa (Pápa), Klausenburg (Kolozsvár) dynasties, as well as smaller ones, such as those from Kaliv (Nagykálló), Kerestir (Bodrogkeresztúr), and Liska (Olaszliszka). Yosef Rapaport, a respected community leader in Borough Park, said that most orthodox Jews living in Brooklyn speak Yiddish with a Hungarian accent.
Here is a video about the streets of the Hasidic Jewish district of New York City:
Interestingly, Hasidism is not uniform. For example, Hungarian Hasidim is hospitable, and the coffee room is well-stocked and free in a Hungarian synagogue. “Marrying a Hungarian woman is almost like getting extra points” – Alexander Rapaport, son of Yosef and the owner of Masbia, a non-profit soup kitchen network.
Borough Park, a neighbourhood in the southwestern part of the borough of Brooklyn, has 300 small synagogues named after places in Hungary like Sopron, Debrecen, or Mád.
Not everybody fled Hungary because of WWII. Some came after the Soviets crushed the 1956 revolution. One of them was Menashe Gottlieb’s grandfather, Zoltán. Menashe runs a restaurant
offering traditional Hungarian dishes like goulash, stuffed cabbage, cabbage noodles (káposztás tészta), or paprika potatoes (paprikás krumpli).
Unfortunately, the Hungarian language slowly disappears since the old generation dies out and their grandchildren speak only a few words. However, they still know folk songs like “Szól a kakas már”, which is the national anthem of Hungarian Hasidic Jews. “It’s a song of yearning for Jerusalem, a song with a lot of emotional power” – Yosef Rapaport said. Therefore, almost every Hasidic child in America learns it.
According to the locals, Hasidic Jews regularly visit the towns and villages they originate from in Hungary. “The name of the town is much more important to us than anyone in Hungary would think.
It’s an alternative universe” –
You can learn more about the everyday life of the Hasidic Jews or how they celebrate the Sabbath in Offbeat Budapest’s article HERE.
Source: offbeatbudapest.com, Daily News Hungary