The Hasidic Williamsburg Educational Walking Tour (EWT) is a three hour guided walking tour through Hasidic Williamsburg, the most devoutly Jewish urban enclave in America.
In the tour, participants witness and interact with a Haredi (a.k.a. “Ultra-orthodox”) community that strives to preserve as much of its 19th century European mores as possible, including its Yiddish language, strict segregation of the genders, a boycott of secular music and media, emphasis on Torah scholarship and adulation of Hasidic Rebbes and the meticulous observance of God’s commandments as transmitted and expounded by the sages and Rabbis through the ages.
The tour is designed to offer an opportunity for participants to learn about the exotic and mysterious American subculture called Hasidism, in an immersive setting. To that end, we start off with a comprehensive introduction of the Williamsburg neighborhood, the story of Jewish immigration to America and the Great Awakening of Hasidism in America in the 1950’s. We discuss the successive Jewish immigration waves to America that led up to the post WWII settlement of Williamsburg by its modern-day Hasidim. We explain the origin of Haredism and the definition of Hasidism in America. We explain the contemporary Hasidic sects, including Satmar, Pupa, Belz, etc…, what they stand for and how they can be told apart. Along the tour route, as we observe a site we seize the opportunity to elaborate on associated topics, e.g. we talk about the function of shuls (synagogues) when we encounter a shul, and we talk about the different ways in which married women cover their hair, when we pass them.
A tasting of three food items (e.g. kugel, kishkeh and cholent) from a traditional Hungarian-Hasidic menu is included in the price of the tour. The tasting is offered at a local restaurant during a 20-minute recess in the middle of the tour.
Participants will leave with a firm grip on the nature of the Hasidic community: its mores, its religious tenacity, its independent instititions, its future aspirations, and most importantly perhaps, how this community is recently exerting considerable influence on other Jewish sectors
This tour is the first of its kind ever to be offered in Williamsburg! Participants are 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 Zalman-Aaron Satmar Succession Feud, various Hasidic sects and their idiosyncrasies, housing disputes, local petty politics, economic development and the like. Contemporary issues are 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 laid the basis for Jewish settlement in Williamsburg for many years to come.
In the tour, we learn extensively about the enormous wave of Russian-Polish Jews in the 1880’s-1920’s, and note some scattered remnants from that noteworthy historical epoch. We learn how the Russian Jews differed from their German predecessors and how they paved the way for the post-WWII Hasidic Jewish settlement.
We ask that female tour participants dress modestly, in accordance with the local conventions. This means that short pants and tank tops should be avoided. Discretion in this matter is advisable. The locals are generally amicable to tourists and we often see them eavesdropping on us and occasionally butt in with their own reactions and narratives. If we are lucky, we may get invited to a home.
We meet at the northeast corner of Broadway and Havemeyer Street in front of the Mcdonlad’s, 267 Broadway, Brooklyn NY 11211.
Our meeting site is easily accessible using the MTA Transit NYC Subway system via the J/M/Z line. Depart at the Marcy Ave. train station, which is the first stop over the Williamsburg Bridge if you are travelling from Manhattan to Brooklyn. See red pindrop on the map below:
Caution: If you are traveling by Subway beware of weekend disruptions of service and delays due to construction activity. Plan to arrive at-least 15-20 minutes in advance, as we leave the rendezvous point promptly. Visit http://www.mta.info/ for service status updates. See screen capture on the right.
Prior booking/registration for the tour is highly recommended but not required for cash-paying clients. (Note however that if no registrations are received for a regular tour, it MAY be cancelled without notice). If you choose to pay via Paypal or credit card, you must register and pay in advance as per instructions emailed to you upon registration.
The public Hasidic Williamsburg walking tour entails about three hours of walking roughly 1.5 miles on flat terrain and includes a 20-minute break at one of the original Hasidic restaurants in Williamsburg featuring a smorgasbord from the menu of authentic Hungarian-Hasidic cuisine.
Private tours can be customized to suit your particular area of interest, such as Hasidic lifestyle, sectional strife, residential trends, economic activities, historical developments, political alliances, Jewish immigration, etc… If research is being conducted for a book, movie or TV project, please let us know in advance and we will tailor the tour to maximize your utility from it. Research tours may involve extensive introductions and map/photographic illustrations in person or via online video conference. Please Contact us for a quote.