Eastern European Jewish Immigration
Irving I. Herzberg’s Hasidic Jewish Community Series. 1965
Historically, Jews have maintained a social system in which they isolate themselves from their neighbors. Perhaps this was seen as a means of self-preservation, which has only been reconfirmed in a secular post-World War II society. One group continuing such isolation is the Satmar Hasidim of Williamsburg, a group that rarely associates with those outside of their own community. Williamsburg, specifically Southside, became the sociological bubble where the Satmar Hasidim practiced and grew their beliefs, while altering the face of the neighborhood to accommodate their community.
For years, Jews have been forced to skillfully adjust to new environments and cities, which may explain their adaptation in Williamsburg. Rather than significantly altering the neighborhood’s built fabric, the post-WWII Jewish immigrants adapted an already functioning building system to their own cultural needs and uses. For example, they reused buildings housing similar industries like a butcher, by converting it into a kosher butcher. The same was done with a school, which was converted to a Hebrew school. They purchased or leased shops and storefronts (usually low-rental establishments), and then altered them to accommodate their new business ventures. This transformation is evident in sites such as the former South Second Street M.E. Church. By making the choice to re-purpose buildings rather than demolish and rebuild them, the neighborhood quickly accommodated the Satmar community, and as a result their population grew substantially in Southside Williamsburg.