The Zionist Conspiracy
Monday, May 29, 2006
Does More Frum Equal More Coarse?
Yesterday, I went with my wife and son to look at a couple of houses in a neighborhood that, while having an established modern Orthodox community, is not one that would be identified as a "frum" neighborhood. The houses we looked at were very small, on the outskirts of the neighborhood, with asking prices higher than we likely can afford, and clearly needed a significant amount of updating and/or repair that we definitely cannot afford.
Upon leaving one of the houses, a modern Orthodox man and his teenage son who live next door came out to say hello to us. They talked to us for a few minutes about the owner of the house, the block and the shul. Nothing major, but certainly a very friendly gesture that was appreciated.
I currently rent an apartment in Kew Gardens Hills. Though more diverse than other frum areas - with significant modern Orthodox, Israeli, and Bucharian populations - a plurality of the residents of Kew Gardens Hills can probably be described as left-wing charedi, or, for those who like the term, "charedi lite."
This morning, I was walking with my not-yet 18-month old son in the area. On one of the narrow streets, young frum people were setting up for a Memorial Day barbecue. Between the grill the men were setting up and the beach chairs on which the women were relaxing, they were blocking virtually the entire sidewalk. The scene reminded me of Giants Stadium before a Jets or Giants game, where tailgaters routinely block three or four parking spots.
I try to be cautious when I'm taking care of my son, and given the way people drive in the area, I wasn't going to walk with him in middle of the street, so I struggled to maneuver the stroller across a tree on the edge of the curb, ultimately lifting it carefully around the tree. When I passed by, one of the guys sarcastically said to me: "I hope that wasn't too difficult for you." I responded while walking by: "It's not just me. You're blocking everyone who's walking by." With that, he started yelling, "be a man," whatever that's supposed to mean.
Obviously, there are obnoxious jerks everywhere, and it would be unfair to generalize about any group based upon an isolated incident, whether positive or negative.
Nevertheless, it does seem to me that in areas that are populated mostly by frum people, the residents tend to be, overall, less friendly and more coarse toward others. While these neighborhoods have the advantages of choices in shuls and Jewish schools, and kosher supermarkets and restaurants, the areas in which frum people are a minority tend to have almost a "small town" mentality within shul, with people focusing less on their differences and accepting those with divergent backgrounds and approaches.
Unfortunately, it seems that it is unrealistic to have a large frum neighborhood in which the residents are all part of one cohesive community. It seems inevitable that with growth, ultimately two new shuls are built for those who find the original shul too modern or too charedi, with the members of the different shuls having less and less interaction with their fellow observant Jews.