Tuesday, December 14, 2010
E15th and J. Not Kosher.
In the last couple of years, Chabad’s presence in Flatbush has increased and there are several “shluchim” who actually make a difference in people’s lives. Recently, the Lubavitcher yungerman who runs the operation on Ave J, has been admitted as a full time student Kollel Gur Aryeh on Coney Island; a testimony as to how Chabad has been “accepted” by the Yeshiva World and how times are changing -for better and for worse. Be that as it may, IMHO, the fact that Lubavitch is having success is not a good sign for the community. It is a manifestation of Flatbush’s un-Torahdikeh environment. To put it simply: if Flatbush would be a stronghold for serious yeshivaleit, the reaction to Chabad would not be as welcoming. IOW: the “welcoming” of Chabad, is an indication – perhaps a subtle one – that true Bney Teyreh are persona non grata.
My friends,It is not easy being a Ben Teyreh in Flatbush. First there is the education of the kinderlach. Contrary to Lakewood where provided one is deemed a “true ben Teyreh or has pull, you can have your pick of many different levels of exclusive chadorim, in Flatbush you have no other choice but to send the kids to a “community” school where there kids of all stripes and denominations. Then there is the actual standard of living. In Flatbush, it is much harder and less socially acceptable to be on the “programmin”. One doesn’t have the luxury of living with other yungerleit in a claustrophobic attached-on-both-sides development where one is not expected to have two cars. To make the problem worse, Flatbush has been recently invaded by a group of tuna-bagels (TEE-NUH BAY-GILS) who erected this monstrous edifice known as the POMEGRANATE. For many of your neighbors, they associate a religious experience with walking into that store and being awed by the variations of galah, herring, dips with the take out section of fish, meat and fresh baked goods (let’s not get started with the different types of six-hour cheeses). Obviously, a true-blooded sensitive Ben Torah does not feel at home in an ostentatious environment of overindulgence, luxus, and materialism – even if his family shtams from the Oberland.
Of course, In Lakewood, many can eventually afford to buy a house – somehow. Once the down payment is accounted for, the mortgage can be paid by renting out the basement to Pedro Sr., with Pedro Jr. and more importantly, Pedro III – the ticket to everyone’s citizenship – whose tuition at the local public school is covered by the property tax paid by the oylam. In Flatbush, if you are not an SY, or you don’t have a rich uncle, there is no way it is going to be feasible to buy a house [unless, you want to buy next door to a Beis Menahcem, vedal]. That means that if you want to learn in Flatbush, you probably would have to move to Marine Park (also not so cheap) or to Kensington. Perhaps the biggest problem is more of a nuanced and subtle and is of the sociological nature. You see, in Lakewood, the bal-ha-batim know their place and many of the relatively younger ones have an inferiority complex that they are “working” [unless they do “very well”]. Basically, although no one really says it publically, the working class is expected to accept their fate and acknowledge – at least subtlety- that they sit where Rosa Parks refused to. In Flatbush, in the last ten years, this is has all changed. The reason, in short: Rav Avrumy Schorr.
Rav Avrumy has changed the way the Flatbush working guy, whose years of hasmadah and cheshek in Yiddishkeit (if it ever existed) are something of the distant past. He has rejuvenated many and now the bal-ha-bus can walk with a spring in his gait. He is special. He gets to hear the standard reyd from the Poylishe seforim (sprinkled with some other sources) on a weekly basis. Unlike ones not-so-fond memories of days in yeshiva with “boring” melamdim - this new Rebbe is dynamic. His face can turn beet red, as long as he is twirling his peyos with enough concentration. He follows in the way of the Beis Yisroel as he paces up and down the aisles and stares – and he does not have a chair by his seat, ala the Beis Yisroel. Rav Avrumy, who has family member who are respected Chassidim, due no doubt to his impressive resume and tenure in many yeshivas, has learned the age old trick in building people’s self-esteem and making them feel good: “muhn” something from the crowd. There is no better source of self pride than having an authority figure actually expect something from you! But I must say, Rav Avrumy perfected this age-old technique. Instead of “just” muhning, he actually speaks about things and hasagos that are much higher than where the oylam is holding. As a result, one can have the proverbial cake and eat it to; get “muhned” and feel no need to change one’s life one iota – just sit back and enjoy the monologue. Although, Rav Avrumy has finally found his calling and his presence is overall beneficial to the denizens of Flatbush, it is questionable on its affect on transforming Flatbush into an ihr v’aym b'yisroel.