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Do you know what a Monsey House is?

I decided to take a ride through the pre-fab home neighborhood right near my house today, I was on the tail end of a morning ride around the hood and the neighbors had always intrigued me and I was hoping to see if their hood was as white trash as I thought it was. I was happy to see shirtless men working on their lawns beer can in hand, under the hoods of their rusting muscle cars and just sitting on their stoops enjoying the strange overcast weather which has engulfed the south bay today.

The homes were all of the prefabricated variety, you know, the ones you see be driven down the highway in this trucker caravan with those little follow-along vehicles with flashing yellow lights and official signs? Those are the ones, I like to think of them as an upper class trailer park, they arent actually trailers, but they arent actually houses in the real sense.

I was enjoying my time in the neighborhood when suddenly my eyes were greeted by the strangest sight, amidst all of these wood paneled double wide homes there was a monstrosity known to orthodox Jews like myself as a Monsey House. At the curve in the road on a small cul de sac was this pink brick home of magnanimous proportions especially when compared with the other homes in the neighborhood. It had an enormous garage, strange looking windows and had the look of those sprawling McMansions you see on the side of the highway in the west with signs saying things like homes in the low $160s with names like Willow Creek or Spring Meadows, neighborhoods filled with these homes are usually tough to exit, kind of like casinos, because everything looks the same and you come to realize that everything is the same even the landscaping is the same.

The Monsey House is a cultural phenomena that has spread outside of Monsey, but it of particular interest because it is one of the few ways in which orthodox Jews try to outdo each other in the material world. Orthodox Jews dont really know how to be wealthy, you dont see Maseratti minivans and most fancy cars cant fit a family of 8, besides for that Mercedes R63 AMG minivan which did 0-60 in 4.3 seconds I actually knew a frum dude who had one but it was a real sleeper car. However, frummies do know, or think they know how to show off through their ridiculous homes. Howard Roark would cringe at the Monsey House.

The Monsey House goes like this. The wife of a husband with hocker tendencies wants a knew kitchen, but the new kitchen she wants is bigger than the house itself, so the husband decides to pull the knockdown except basement property tax scam, so the owners knock down the house and leave the basement to keep their same floor plan or something like that. Then they decide to build a house triple the size of their neighbors, set back on the lawn so they can have the house on the hill, Monsey is hilly so this tends to work. Other ways to build a Monsey House, are to have it built for you using the cheapest materials possible so everything looks real until a windstorm comes and starts blowing those bricks off your house.

Most Monsey Houses contain a very large kitchen with up to 3 refrigerators of the cabinet variety, those fridges that blend into the cabinets that cost a lot of money. The true Monsey House needs a marble island with a sink in the middle of the kitchen, this is where the shalach manos divide and conquer game takes place with members of the family and where the large bowl of mango strawberry and lettuce salad is placed when the family hosts a vort.

The true Monsey House must look big, even if it isnt, the best way to do this seems to be through ridiculous looking columns in front of the house. I have seen homes in Monsey that havent even been knocked down or redone, contain columns right on the front stoop to make it appear cool it almost always looks dumb no matter what you do.

The other thing that Monsey Houses must have is no large trees. I have recently read that the reason many Jews afraid of nature and the woods is due to the treatment they received for hundreds of years from their country peasant mates in the European ghettos, whether or not this is true is up for debate its just a theory. I would be willing to bet you that if the frum residents of Monsey had their way, they would raze all of the greenery in Monsey and build Monsey House monstrosities with paves lawns.

Monsey House dwellers do not do their own landscaping, instead they tear down all of the old growth trees on their property and have bushes near the house and that is it, that way you can see their Monsey House when youre driving around the neighborhood looking for that vort youre going to.

{ 60 comments… add one }
  • Batsheva September 19, 2010, 5:55 PM

    Interesting. Never heard the term before. Although I just heard about something today that started in Monsey with houses. Apparently there are people in Monsey who have developed a way of having a removable roof over their kitchen that can be replaced with a bamboo mat, so that there is a built-in sukkah INSIDE their house. I heard this from our rabbi’s daughter who is 11, so take it for what it’s worth. But at first, I thought your article was going to have something to do with that. There are a couple of houses exactly like you describe in my neighborhood. I hate them.

    • Julie September 19, 2010, 6:35 PM

      I’m gonna tell my friends in a battle with their HOA over a sukkah in their yard to just knock in their roof!

    • ghottistyx September 19, 2010, 7:12 PM

      Interestingly, my grade school (which was in West Caldwell, NJ) used to take us Succah Hopping every year in Monsey. I’ve seen those Sukkot where they simply remove the roof by an interesting pully device and put schach over the now empty ceiling. In fact, I still recall one such house having 4 sukkot! One was for eating, one was for davening, one was for sleeping in, and one was for bentching lulav.

      The other feature I remember was that there were certain areas where EVERY house had a Sukkah! Unlike Boro Park, where most have to build on the roof (and then get permission from their landlords to do it), this was a situation where not one house was missing a sukkah. I had never seen this phenomenon before.

      And yes, I have a few friends who are of the remaining vestiges of MO in Monsey. One would ALWAYS bitch about how these “Monsey Houses” were very nice looking, but the owners would never take care of their properties (landscaping included), and thus the property values were driven down. Now I know that Monsey was always considered the cheap alternative to living in the City (and within commutable distance), but here’s a guy who really considered it a bad thing that they wanted their properties valued low.

      Now having spent my share of time in Monsey, I can say that it’s a very nice place, but I’d hate to live there (even when I was frum I felt that way).

  • sdr September 19, 2010, 6:00 PM

    Nauseatingly true!

  • chavah September 19, 2010, 6:10 PM

    I thought a sukkah had to be temporary?

    • Anonymous September 21, 2010, 12:20 AM

      Nope, only the roof. I miss my retractable skylight sukkkah. That was true Teishvu K’ein Taduru (if a little bit too easy).

      It is really just a matter of putting in the right skylight if you need to remodel.

      And while I’m being positive. Those ridiculously ostentatious Monsey Houses give $100 to every group who comes to collect on purim. Try it.

  • yakov September 19, 2010, 6:12 PM

    wow!! pretty accurate, except ppl in my “monsey house” neighborhood tend to keep the as many trees as possible!! (behind the house)

    p.s. i live in monsey!

    • Yochanan September 19, 2010, 9:51 PM

      Where in Monsey do you live? I’ve noticed it’s more woodsy up north towards Wesley Hills.

  • elana September 19, 2010, 6:36 PM

    Lol, funny and true, I have friends in Monsey. The first time I visited the house was a three bedroom ranch, the next Pesach I went back and it was a seven bedroom museum, three fridges and a Pesach kitchen! And yes the only thing left from the year before was the basement! Great folks I may add!

  • WACKY MAC & CHOCOLATE PIZZA September 19, 2010, 7:12 PM

    Hesh, if you were one of eight siblings, and each of your siblings were married and had children of their own, how do you expect to fit your entire family in your three-bedroom house?

    There is a reason for all the McMansions. Showing off is not one of them.

    • ghottistyx September 19, 2010, 7:15 PM

      Not that I condone this, but take a look at Me’ah She’arim, Boro Park, and Villiamsboig. Now how do they provide for their families with their apartments? Of course, in Moonsey they have the space to expand their houses and accommodate said family sizes; but if the former 3 locations prove anything, it’s that it is possible (though uncomfortable) to raise large families in small spaces.

      • A. Nuran September 20, 2010, 2:45 PM

        Fishsticks, houses used to be bigger because people had bigger families. If you’re going to have three generations, your kids, your siblings and their kids living under one roof wouldn’t you want a house that was big enough for the all to live in comfortably? You can cram a dozen people into a two bedroom apartment. You can also live on nothing but infant formula and wiggety grubs or ski on manure. But why would you want to?

        OK, maybe there’s a lot of stuff in poor taste. But so what?

        • ghottistyx September 20, 2010, 11:11 PM

          Finally, someone who pronounced my name right! Awesome!

          I guess I wasn’t being clear in my original post. It is POSSIBLE to raise them in said apartments, I’ve seen it, but yes I think it’s better they be raised in comfort; and there’s one of the perks of being raised in a house in Rockland County than an apartment in Villy, Booroy Puhrk, or Meah Shoorim. I was being slightly facetious, I don’t believe this is any way to raise a kid, but then again I don’t believe that being a baby factory is any way to raise a family either!

          • A. Nuran September 26, 2010, 11:44 PM

            It would help if you spelled it right:


    • OfftheDwannaB September 19, 2010, 8:58 PM

      Exactly ghottistyx, Showing off is 100% of the reason. YOu don’t need to marblize downstairs, put up cheesy columns, add 3 subzero fridges , and 2 late-model german cars to host your family.
      You do need it to show you made it.

      • Anonymous September 20, 2010, 1:50 PM

        Just becasue it is possible to provide for fammilies in tiny cramped apartments, doesnt make it pleasant. If people could afford bigger/better of course they would make their lives easier. It is absurd to say showing off is 100% the reason. It may be a big reason but it is far from the main reason

        • OfftheDwannaB September 20, 2010, 7:05 PM

          You’ll notice none of the things in my list has to do with necessity.

  • i know what ur job is... September 19, 2010, 8:11 PM

    Sux @ss

  • FrumGer September 19, 2010, 8:56 PM

    Those aren’t monsey homes because their in every single suburb in America. keeping up with the Jones’ is not a monsey or jewish idea its an american idea. thats why everyone lives above their paygrade has things they are in tremendous amounts of debt over, and taking anti depressants to numb out the stress of it all. if your going to make satirical stereotypes and architypes, then please have them a little more solid than that. the humor logic and is just full of holes…

    that being said, about building a house bigger than your neighbors in monsey, what if you neighbor has a basement shul? It could pose problems. or better yet what if you decide to build a bigger house than your neighbor and your neighbor builds a basement shul just to block your game..

    • OfftheDwannaB September 19, 2010, 9:01 PM

      You obviously haven’t lived outside of New York or LA. Not everyone is like that.

      • michaltastik September 26, 2010, 5:03 PM

        OT Dwanna, I grew up in a suburb where half the town was full of houses EXACTLY like that. I remember when I was in high school, I babysat and cleaned houses on that side of town. They never had less than 5 bedrooms. They usually had between 7 and 10 bedrooms, living room, family room, den, maybe a library, dining room… eat in kitchen 2 or 3 and half bathrooms. The lady I babysat for had a baby and they built another master bedroom and bathroom upstairs to be near the baby’s room.

        My father’s last house was nice, but not quite that nice. It was a three bedroom ranch with an island in the kitchen plus a “breakfast nook” which fit a table, living room, dining room, two and half bathrooms, deck, laundry room upstairs plus basement and of course a master bathroom you about the size of my current apartment. After all, it had to have an over-sized tub with jets AND a separate shower with a seat inside. He had 3 acres of land. He also owned two Lincoln towncars, a Ford Pick-up (for big stuff or the dog), snowmobiles…. motorcycles…. blah, blah, blah… Oh, but he did mow his own lawn…. he bought a riding mower for that so it was FUN to mow the lawn. Guess who mowed the acre at his little house with the walk behind? Me.

    • A. Nuran September 20, 2010, 2:46 AM

      about building a house bigger than your neighbors in monsey, what if you neighbor has a basement shul? It could pose problems. or better yet what if you decide to build a bigger house than your neighbor and your neighbor builds a basement shul just to block your game..

      Then you’ve just got to add a yeshiva with a non-compliant dorm AND a detached falafel joint out back.

      • FrumGer September 20, 2010, 6:52 PM

        i wonder if any Rav has actually someones 3rd story home brought down a level or two to be in compliance with halacha…

        • A. Nuran September 21, 2010, 2:56 AM

          Not if he was expecting shul dues that year

    • Heshy Fried September 20, 2010, 11:15 AM

      Do you know why property tax is so high in Monsey?

      Because every shmo has a “basement shul” to save on property tax and to put the burden on theior neighbors.

      • A. Nuran September 20, 2010, 2:46 PM

        That’s a very good point.

      • Jeffrey September 20, 2010, 3:03 PM

        Taxes ae high, bec we’re paying for all of the Spring Valley residents who dont. Our school taxes pay for EVERY SV resident to send their kids to school.

  • Dr. E September 19, 2010, 9:10 PM

    I even know of a few “Monsey houses” in Israel.

  • FrumGer September 19, 2010, 9:11 PM

    lived in like 5 or 6 states in the north and the south on the east coast and in the mid west.

  • FrumGer September 19, 2010, 9:29 PM

    read any journal, newpaper, or general study etc on middle class suburban america dude… look at the housing crisis… Look at the american made car for pete sake. bigger more expensive. 30,000 is a normal priced car now. wtf? look at the massive debts to credit card co.. are you effing serious? please tell me your joking and you haven’t just stuck your head in the sand… Materialism, consumerism, and Greed mainly brought on by advertising and Tv/ movies shows that depict mostly people in upper middle class lifestyles with even if they have lower middle class jobs… people get out of touch with reality into the “I deserve it” mode. All these excapes we binge on sub contiously continually tell us that what we have is not good enough. this has made families with less than 2 kids on avg “need” 3,000 sq ft and a garage minimum. and will sign an adjustable rate mortgage to get it. in the 50’s families with 3-4 kids a pop were happy in a 3 bedroom one story ranch with a carport. this is not everyone sure, Im not in debt. maybe your not either.. but I think a 3 year recession proves it well enough.

    • Mahla September 27, 2010, 9:12 AM

      Sooooo true FrumGer!

  • furrydoc September 19, 2010, 9:43 PM

    I was raised on one of those Monsey streets, one of the early developments that started in the mid-1950’s and completed about ten years later. This summer I had occasion to pass through, driving past my boyhood home on Briarcliff Drive with my wife. The exterior remained largely unchanged, the same white color my father painted it fifty years ago, the driveway repaired, still a one-car garage and the tree we planted in the front yard in the late 1950’s grown thicker with annual rings. Some of the houses on that street had expanded, but ironically the first real expansion occurred in the 1960’s when some secular neighbors who made it big in the retail electronics business added on.

    To get to my former home, we had to drive along Cameo Ridge Road and Hilltop Lane where the house on the corner was razed and rebuilt as a more imposing edifice. Some of the houses may as well be two houses. Even though the lawns were half the size, they seemed to be mowed less than half the time. And that’s just one development.

    • Jeffrey September 20, 2010, 10:44 AM

      I grew up on Meadowbrook. We did our own lawns and drove old beat up cars. The neighborhood has chg’d A LOT since then. My parents sold the house a few years ago when the neighborhood chg’d.

  • OfftheDwannaB September 19, 2010, 9:47 PM

    You have a nice theory going on, and I’m sure in places like NY, NJ, and in yuppie communities around the country you’re correct, but in places like Baltimore, Minneapolis, Detroit, and many other “out-of-town” places, it’s just not like that. Sure there some people caught up in it, and probably, because of exposure to media and more money, relative to earlier generations, almost everyone today is somewhat more materialistic. But nowhere as bad as your World-gone-wrong scenario has it.
    But maybe I just hang around a more normal class of people than you do. I don’t know.

    • FrumGer September 20, 2010, 1:20 PM
      • A. Nuran September 20, 2010, 2:51 PM

        To be fair, there’s a long discussion that could be had about this. It would take in a lot of history and economics. Suffice it to say that we would use a lot less fossil fuels if the entire post-WWII economy hadn’t been very consciously and cynically centered around the Cult of the Automobile, an idolatrous religion of the worst sort.

        Short version – Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was only fiction in that there were Toons. America was redesigned from zoning laws up to enforce an oil-fueled car-centered lifestyle on people.

        • FrumGer September 20, 2010, 6:35 PM

          i most defiantly agree with you on that one.

      • OfftheDwannaB September 20, 2010, 7:09 PM

        Hmm. I think it’s just based on your worldview. This whole world probably sucks to you.

        • FrumGer September 27, 2010, 1:25 PM

          The world doesnt suck , the ppor people in third world countries that would be happy with scraps on my table dont suck , plenty of people in the world are awesome. I just hate western normative modicum operandi …

    • michaltastik September 26, 2010, 5:18 PM

      Excuse me? BLOOOMFIELD WHATEVER (hills?) outside Detroit?!!! They live on private lakes. I used to have an Email pal who lived there and he was a kippah wearing Jew (MO, I”m sure.) This kid had his own bathroom and they had like 6 bedrooms.

      Also, Buffalo is also a Blue collar town and they have suburbs like this. Where the F do you think the Buffalo Bills football players live? Jim Kelley’s house is bigger than the one in that picture. I used to babysit for a family on his street.

      People are more materialistic in NYC, but point to all the knock off name brand purses and the fact NO GIRL other than me, wears closed toed shoes in the summer. NEVER before I lived in NYC, did I see airbrushed f-ing toenails hanging on out. Those girls couldn’t wear shoes if they wanted cuz ew, their toe nails are nasty long but they think it’s pretty.

  • Born and Bred September 19, 2010, 11:15 PM


    Let’s clarify a few things, though people in monsey have of late made more money and have chosen to spend it on larger houses; the cost of living there is significantly less than in NYC or the 5 towns. A throw down house in Monsey is at most $500k in the 5 towns a throw down is close to a million. The taxes are less if you are making more money than in the city as well. The property taxes are fixed (whereas in the 5 boros you pay a city income tax) so if you are making $50k it makes sense to live in the city but if you are making $250k your take home after taxes is far greater leaving you way more to spend on your house.
    I should also mention that having grown up in monsey I have learned several things about the people there. Aside from being tremendous balei chessed for the most part the truly rich (even with their big houses and lexus’) live far below their means. Additionally, another significant difference, and I think this is a virtue others may disagree, monsey jews buy gashmius for themselves not to show off to their neighbor. They put in a pool because they like to swim not because their neighbor has one. I know it is subtle but there is a difference. I should also mention that from the outside looking in I could understand why someone like Heshy would make that mistake having lived a portion of his life in the 5-Towns and Far Rockaway; where people really are “Jonesing,” So you see a big house and the next one is bigger you just assume they did it for the same reasons your own acquiantances would.
    Now that I have defended it let me play devils advocate; if monsey is guilty of any “Jonesing” it is that they are trying to “Out-Frum” one another!!!!!

    P.S. Hesh “Magnanimous” means= Very generous or forgiving, esp. toward a rival or someone less powerful than oneself. Almost the exact opposite of what you meant it as, and may actually be more fitting considering what I know about monsey people.

  • Mahla September 20, 2010, 12:31 AM

    “Most Monsey Houses contain a very large kitchen with up to 3 refrigerators of the cabinet variety ….” I used to think that “keeping kosher” just meant not eating certain things, like bacon or shellfish. Now that I actually know what the laws of kashrut entail, I am flabbergasted how any Jews who ~don’t~ have three refrigerators, sinks and ovens do it. It boggles the mind.

    Seriously, how do they do it?! :^O

    • A. Nuran September 20, 2010, 2:50 AM

      Three fridges? THREE FRIDGES? I’ll let you know you need at least nine fridges.

      Pareve for Pesach.
      Milk for Pesach.
      Meat for Pesach.
      Glatt Meat.
      Glatt Meat for Pesach.

      and one for Treif.

      (Lord Almighty, that’s an old joke)

      • OfftheDwannaB September 20, 2010, 7:03 PM

        Haha. It’s like the traveling Jew joke

      • Mark September 20, 2010, 11:15 PM

        Nowadays they need a whole treif kitchen … for the live-in nanny!

    • ghottistyx September 20, 2010, 11:18 PM

      Where I grew up, the term for anyone with separate fridges was “chnyok” (TOO religious, I think it may be pejorative, I have to ask my mother).

      My family did the separate dishes thing and waiting 1 hour after milk and 3 hours after meat (some wait 6). We didn’t have separate sinks for washing the dishes or separate dishwashers (I think my parents’ new house does).

      And oh yeah, the wonders of a self-cleaning oven. No need to kasher it in between meals.

  • Anon September 20, 2010, 4:23 AM

    You may wish to check out the meaning of the word magnanimous.

  • Jeffrey September 20, 2010, 10:02 AM

    This must be satire or I’m in the wrong neighborhood. I’m not a hocker, my wife isnt “hot chani”.. (she doesnt even cover her hair, what a shiksa !) I dont have columns. Our trees are big old oaks. I love to hike in Harriman every chance I get.

    Am I going to be put in Chayrum or be made to move ??

  • Anonymous September 20, 2010, 11:32 AM

    Wow you really hate Monsey!

    Basement shuls dont make you Tax exempt (especially since 90% are illegal).

  • MonseyMan September 20, 2010, 12:24 PM

    Wanna see monstrosities in Monsey? Drive down Dolson — every chosid of Rabbi Shlesinger with 2 nickels are buying run down houses and putting mansions, just to be in 2 minute walking distance of the shul.

  • Q September 20, 2010, 1:07 PM

    Heshy, great post!

    I have relatives who live in such a house in Monsey. They have a nice backyard, with closely-trimmed lawn, but the mother won’t allow her children to play on the grass — she’s afraid of them catching Lyme disease.

  • Anonymous September 20, 2010, 2:39 PM

    LOL! Come visit Toronto again – The Viewmount shul is Hocker central and the houses in the area would put any Monsey House to shame… if there was more space avail.

    PS Columns are super tacky.

  • Anonymous September 20, 2010, 8:10 PM

    “I was happy to see shirtless men… ”

    Whatever works, my friend…

  • offderech September 20, 2010, 10:45 PM

    Wow, you are right on with that shalach manos kitchen island and the mango strawberry salad. Un-f***ing believable!!

  • you are a complete... September 21, 2010, 1:38 PM


    you whore.

    • you are becoming... September 21, 2010, 3:35 PM


      you troll.

  • michaltastik September 26, 2010, 5:26 PM

    As usual, the comments were substantially better than Heshy’s attempt to make us laugh… and yet even to comments I did not.

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