Ultra-Orthodox Community is Expanding, Blockbusting, Lakewood, Jersey City

Photo

A woman and boy in the Greenville neighborhood in Jersey City, where several dozen Hasidic families from Brooklyn have settled. They are part of a major movement of ultra-Orthodox Jews into communities around New York City in search of more affordable places to live.CreditBryan Anselm for The New York Times

JERSEY CITY — To the gentrifying stew of bankers, artists and college graduates who are transforming this once blue-collar city across the Hudson River from Manhattan, add an unexpected flavor.

In a heavily African-American neighborhood, 62 families from a number of Hasidic sects based in Brooklyn and rarely seen here have bought a scattering of faded but roomy wood-frame rowhouses whose prices are less than half what homes of similar size would cost in New York — roughly $300,000 compared with $800,000.

These families are pioneers in a demographic and religious shift that is reshaping communities throughout the region. Skyrocketing real estate prices in Brooklyn and Queens are forcing out young ultra-Orthodox families, which are establishing outposts in unexpected places, like Toms River and Jackson Township in New Jersey, the Willowbrook neighborhood on Staten Island and in Bloomingburg, N.Y., in the foothills of the Catskills.

The influx, however, has provoked tensions with long-established residents, as the ultra-Orthodox seek to establish a larger footprint for their surging population. Residents complain that investors or real estate agents representing the ultra-Orthodox community have been ringing doorbells persistently, offering to buy properties at “Brooklyn prices.” Jersey City, Toms River and Jackson have all passed no-knock ordinances barring such inquiries under the threat of fines or have banned solicitations altogether.

The mayor of Jersey City, Steven Fulop, said his town took pride in its diversity but had been concerned about “very aggressive solicitation.”

“They literally go door to door and can be very pushy trying to purchase someone’s house,” Mr. Fulop, a grandson of Holocaust survivors and a graduate of yeshivas, said in an interview. “It’s not the best way to endear yourself to the community, and there’s been a lot of pushback.”

Photo

In Jersey City, a Hasidic influx has provoked some tension among longtime residents who complain of aggressive tactics from buyers seeking to purchase homes for Hasidic families. The city now prohibits door-to-door solicitation. CreditBryan Anselm for The New York Times

New York City and the surrounding suburbs are home to the largest concentration of Jews in the country and because of their high birthrate — five or six children are common — Hasidic and other ultra-Orthodox Jews represent the fastest-growing subset. They are now estimated to number about 330,000 in New York City alone — one-third of the city’s overall Jewish population.

They have become a more muscular political and social force and have turned the generally liberal profile of the area’s Jews more observant and conservative. Lakewood Township, near the Jersey Shore, voted for Donald J. Trump last year by the largest margin — 50 percentage points over Hillary Clinton — of any New Jersey community, according to an analysis by NJ Advance Media.

Squeezed out of their traditional neighborhoods, ultra-Orthodox Jews have taken steps that have raised concerns as they settle into new communities.

Michele Massey, a former Jersey City councilwoman who is the executive director of an organization that oversees a commercial corridor along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, said Hasidim had opened a synagogue on the avenue despite a recent zoning change forbidding new houses of worship.

“It’s not because they’re Jewish,” Ms. Massey said of her opposition. “It could have been any other religion or group. It was simply the zoning law. I’m a person of color. Obviously I don’t care who lives where.”

The Hasidim contend that they have been primarily buying boarded-up or vacant homes and that solicitations have come from outside investors, not from the families that have moved in. They support the city’s no-knock law and point out that the Hasidic families that have moved into the Greenville neighborhood are a minuscule fraction of the area’s 47,000 people, half of whom are black.

“We’re not looking to push out anybody,” said Mordecha Feuerstein, a volunteer for a Hasidic organization that helps people find new homes in affordable places like Jersey City.

What Hasidim have opened in a boarded-up dry cleaner on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, he said, is not a synagogue but a small community center that, like many Jewish institutional buildings, is also used for prayer and study. Next to it is a narrow grocery stocked with kosher foods and Yiddish newspapers. Some Hasidim point out that within a few blocks along the avenue are a Catholic church, a mosque and a storefront church called the Sanctified Church of Jesus Christ. Those were grandfathered in under zoning rules and officials are weighing whether the community center violates the rules.

Underlying the objections of many municipalities is an often unspoken worry that ultra-Orthodox Jews will transform the character of their communities. The ultra-Orthodox may not explicitly raise the specter of anti-Semitism, but they do see a bias against their unconventional lifestyle, modest dress and customs. Orthodox Jews, in general, live in tight-knit communities because of their need to cluster around an infrastructure that includes a synagogue within walking distance, kosher butchers, yeshivas for boys and girls, and ritual baths.

One community that is rapidly changing is Bloomingburg, on the edge of Sullivan County. A developer, Shalom Lamm, started building a complex of 396 townhouses that he marketed to Hasidim. Opponents claimed the development would quadruple the village’s population of 420 and significantly alter its tranquil, rustic ambience. Thirty homes are occupied and another 70 or so are in various stages of building. Vacant homes nearby have been bought for Hasidic tenants, while a boys’ yeshiva, a ritual bath and a kosher store have opened.

What the village will look like is in limbo, however, because Mr. Lammpleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to corrupt the electoral process by signing up ineligible voters to elect a village government friendly to his project. He will face sentencing in September.

Lakewood is also feeling the impact of a fast-growing minority group. Decades ago the area was rural, filled with hardscrabble egg-raising farms owned by Jewish Holocaust refugees, a few grand hotels and an estate that had once been owned by John D. Rockefeller.

TO CONTINUE TO THE NEW YORK TIMES STORY, CLICK HERE.

6 thoughts on “Ultra-Orthodox Community is Expanding, Blockbusting, Lakewood, Jersey City

  1. like Muslims (the other Semites), after Jews are in the majority, gentiles will no longer be welcome in the communities that the gentiles made attractive enough to interest others.

    • If you do a Google search on homes for sale in New Square, NY or Kiryas Joel, NY you won’t find any listings. These ultra Orthodox communities have brought back the bad old days of restrictive covenants, de facto if not de jure. Why aren’t black leaders taking these communities to court?

    • I am South Asian American, and South Asia has the largest community of Muslims in the world. I have found most Muslim Americans of all ethnic backgrounds, including mine, come to this country, work hard and contribute. They live side by side with people of all backgrounds, religions, and cultures even if they are insular.

      No community could be as bad as the Hasidic/Ultra-Orthodox community in using their political and financial clout to aggressively push people out of communities and create dirty, filthy shtetls like the ones you
      see in Lakewood, Kiryas Joel and Israel. Maybe if they cleaned up their act both internally and physically (which most likely will never happen) people would tolerate them more!

  2. if a gentile tries to move into their neighborhood you’ll see what they are really like. there’s a reason that jews are almost universally reviled worldwide and always have been.

  3. Not doing much for the reputation of Jews generally, are they? Like army ants, swarming over a community, a town, a county. On the positive side, they’re being forced out of Brooklyn into the relative hinterlands. Maybe they can be redirected to some of the dying towns far upstate NY; better to have them living there than to have the empty houses and shuttered stores that prevail in too many of those places. Maybe.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.