Rockland County, N.Y., where I’ve lived for nearly 40 years, is home to the third largest population of Hasidic Jews in the world, trailing only the entire nation of Israel and New York City. Which explains why, in a previous millennium, when I was the Page One editor of The Journal News, the newspaper of New York’s northern suburbs, a reporter and photographer were assigned to cover what was either the bar mitzvah or the wedding of the grand rebbe’s son in New Square, N.Y.
Bar mitzvah or wedding. I’m not sure which one, because I wasn’t invited. On the other hand, I didn’t have to buy a gift.
New Square is a small hamlet (are there large hamlets?) accessed by a single road off a main road that runs through the county. Drive in a block or two and it suddenly feels like you’ve time-traveled back to 18th century Europe. Drive in on a Saturday – Shabbos – and you’re in the only car in town that’s moving. And that guy who looks like he just dropped in from Mars – thats you, because you’re the only guy in town who isn’t sporting a full beard and a long black coat and a wide-brimmed black hat. Continue reading