Unity in Diversity in Ramat Beit Shemesh

In the US, and I suspect in other Jewish areas such as England as well, the Jewish community in any given area tends to be rather monolithic. For example in New Jersey, Passaic is Litivish Ultra-Orthodox, so is Lakewood. Morristown is Chabad. Monsey (ok, NY but just outside of NJ) is majority chassidic, some parts of town pretty exclusively one chassidic type or another – other parts a mixed bag. Teaneck, Elizabeth, and West Orange.

Yet I up and moved to Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. For those who don’t know, Ramat Beit Shemesh has become, outside of Jerusalem, the premier destination for people moving to Israel from English speaking countries. (And there’s a nice contingent of French speakers there also.)

While Jerusalem somewhat follows the standard monolithic pattern above (again just substitute in neighborhood names to find the chassidic neighborhoods, the Litvish, modern orthodox, sephardic, etc), Ramat Beit Shemesh tries to perform the same exercise on a single street or two at a time. This leads to a level of intermingling that other areas lack.

Walk across the street and go from a more modern area to a litvish area. Another street and it’s chassidic. As an example, on my nearby street corner there’s a litvish shul, a mizrachi (modern-ish) shul, a sephardi shul, and a Chabad shul. There’s even a street of non-religious Jews that drive, slowly and carefully, in and out of the neighborhood on Shabbos.

Ok, people aren’t davening together on Shabbos – everyone has their preferred nusach, Shabbos songs, siddur, etc. But when walking down the street the guy in the shtreimel and gold stripped long coat (Jerusalem bekeshe) says Good Shabbos to the guy in the suite and tie.

Achdus, unity, isn’t becoming the same. It’s respecting each other. And in Ramat Beit Shemesh, that’s a good point.

(For some Torah from Ramat Beit Shemesh, check out Yesh Ma L’asot’s Emunah Institute at http://YeshMaLasot.org )

Akiva blogs at Mystical Paths.

12 comments on “Unity in Diversity in Ramat Beit Shemesh

  1. I always wonder if I will never learn hebrew or be able to integrate somewhat into Israeli society if I move to rbs, althought having said that, I love rsb and I would love to move there.

  2. I would echo the suggestion that Passaic is not quite, as stated, quite so uniformly and starkly “Litivish Ultra-Orthodox,” such that it can be compared so casually to Lakewood I”HK, but it wouldn’t be good for shidduchim.

  3. Shmuel Katz, who made Aliyah with his wife and six children to Ramat Beit Shemesh in July 2006, regularly writes articles about his Aliyah experience in our local Orthodox Jewish newspaper, the Five Towns Jewish Times. According to Mr. Katz, things are not all that lovey-dovey between the Chareidim and the Anglo Orthodox Jewish Religious Zionists (chardal?). He mentioned in his articles some conflicts that had occurred between the Chareidim and the Anglo “chardalim.”

  4. IN RBS, one can maintain that the situation is far more polarized and politicized than any of the Chutz LaAretz communities, especially with the recently elected Charedi Iriyah that AFAIK is making it quite difficult for non Charedim to build homes,shuls, and yeshivos, etc. I think that the article, in order to be as up to date as possible, should have addressed that issue before purporting to delve into whether a communitu is homoegenous or heterogeneous in nature

  5. Even Riverdale, where I live, is quite far from monolithic. There is a Hungarian Chasidic Steeble and the Telshe Yeshiva along with modern orthodox synagogues of the right, center, and left. People say “Good Shabbos” to each other and eat in each others’ homes.

  6. Always check out a neighborhood you want to move to, to get an in-person feel for how you would fit in. Just knowing something about the metropolitan area or city is not enough.

  7. How many different type of Eruvim are there in RBS? Spare me there is no unity. RBS is trying to be Haredi full stop.

  8. Al – yes, the recent conflict is on the border of Ramat Beit Shemesh BET, a charedi conclave with a majority population that moved from Jerusalem Geula/Meah Shearim/Kiryat Belz, etc as well as Bnei Brak, and a Modern Orthodox majority American community on it’s northern border. There is a friction point where those two monolithic neighborhoods meet.

    In Ramat ALEF, there are power plays between rabbaim and/or organizations over who’s going to run (and thereby control the budget for) the public religious institutions such as mikvaot, as well as who gets free land plots being allocated for synagogues or religious schools. Most people ignore the shtuss most of the time, until some rav goes nuts trying to apply chumras to everyone.

  9. but there have been so many stories in certain parts of RBShemesh about haredi/DL struggle over control of the mikvas, pogroms against kipa sruga kids on yom haatzmaut, etc
    where are those stories from? a different part of the city?

  10. I think you’re misrepresenting Passaic, Monsey, and Teaneck as more monolithic than they actually are. Lakewood and Morristown are more homogeneous, and the exceptions are fewer but definitely exist. It’s hard to say that RBS is more or less monolithic than some of these places. (Unless you’ve lived in all of them in the past 3 years).

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