Disembarking the M train at the Hewes Street station, it is immediately apparent that one is in a Hasidic community. The people in the on the streets dress according to Hasidic Jewish customs and the fashions and styles are described in more detail on our Hasidic fashion page. Due to the comumunity’s distinct clothing style, members of other ethnicities/cultures stand out in the crowd.
In this section of Bedford Avenue, there are synagogues as well as businesses that cater to the Hasidic Jewish community. For more about Hasidic Jewish businesses, and to view related video work view the Hasidic small business section of the site. The writing on the signs of the businesses, schools, and other community areas was in Hebrew, which was one of the most obvious indications that we were in a Hasidic Jewish community. The majority of the people we passed on the street were speaking Yiddish as well, whether they were speaking to friends or family members or speaking into a phone. This created an awkward situation when we wanted to conduct interviews with people because, although most, if not all, of the people we saw likely spoke English, it was evident that it was not their preferred language.
Interactions with the Community:
The language was not the only issue when it came to interviews. Because we were observing along an avenue, most of the people were on their way to go someplace and did not look like they wanted to be interrupted, especially by outsiders such as ourselves. Many of the people we saw were with their friends or family members. The weather was nice so we saw quite a few children playing outside. We tried to learn about lifestyle of the community through such observations although they were a poor substitute for personal interviews. Eventually, we were waiting at an intersection for the light to change and a young mother with a stroller came up next to us. She was kind enough to talk to us. We asked her whether or not it was unusual to find people of other cultures in that area of Williamsburg. She told us that it is not unusual but you don’t see many of them and they are very noticeable when you do see them.
Noticeably, the neighborhood has numerous children. In the middle of a workday, almost every single person walking along the streets is pushing a stroller, often in addition to holding the hand of one or two slightly older children. Late afternoon sees huge groups school girls returning home in uniform. The high number of young children has led to the establishment of a number of schools in the area. The schools are an additional element of the community that serve to solidify its structure as an enclave.
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