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Do you actually know the people in your community?

frummy-swing-dancingI heard recently that one of the members of my shul, who I’ve known for years is a heavily into gardening, a bit of a fascination of my own. Then I learned that another fellow is into modifying trucks and off roading. I was a bit shocked at these revelations and it made me realize that I don’t know anything about the people in my community. Besides for the 4 or 5 families that my wife and I regularly eat by, I don’t know what hobbies, interests, talents, or passions that most people in the shul/community have. It’s occurred to me that I live in a frum community where I don’t actually know anyone deeper than our weekly gut shabbos handshake.

In larger communities, life doesn’t revolve around shul, in ours it does. Women come to shul at times when regular communities tend to have empty women’s sections. Friday night, shabbos afternoon, and there’s even a full regimen of women at shaloshudos – a rarity in my experiences. Yet, we don’t have restaurants (save for one) and we only have one hole in the wall grocery store with barely enough room for a minyan of folks shopping at once. I’m sure the mothers chat as they pick their kids up from the day school and I say my required hellos as I’m rushing out of maariv, but I don’t actually know anyone in my community.

In fact, I’m sorry to say that I’m an extroverted guy, yet there are a number of folks that I’ve never even spoken to – including the very serious guy who sits in front of me. I find these facts all the more interesting considering the fact that the community I live in is known as a hachnasos orchim kind of place. The kind of place where you call up for shabbos meals and when you say you’re staying at a hotel, they beg you to stay in the community. Yet, with all this hachnasos orchim, which means people are friendly, I still don’t know what kind of music anyone listens to, or what their political views are. I don’t even know who’s a democrat or republican, because people don’t talk politics at their shabbos tables.

This has been troubling me more often than not, because I’m trying to figure out the demographics of the shul in a deeper way beyond the amount of black hats and people who wear shabbos clothing on the weekdays (about 30%). Just because you wear a black hat, doesn’t mean you don’t watch TV and go mixed swimming. I need to know such factoids in order to properly market my community over the others that we compete with in the area.

Am I alone, or are most people in the same boat – spending years in the same community – yet knowing nothing about those people you spend it with. Rcently someone came up to me whom I’ve known for years and told me that he never knew about my online persona, he said that someone sent him a video that he liked and realized afterward that it was me.

Granted, it would help if the shul had more non-learning events or shabbosim where they forced people to invite others they never had over to their homes. Some of the people I’m curious about, have invited us once and never again (I’m beginning to wonder about that fact as well) but still, if I’m going to settle in some place, I want to know if there are anymore people I can get a beer a with. As of now, there are about 6 people that I would enjoy drinking beer in a stingy bar with – I’d love to expand that number a bit.

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{ 37 comments… add one }
  • Ira March 3, 2014, 9:19 AM


    I am a stanch republican and am active politically both locally and nationally. But, when I have people over on shabbos, I never discuss politics, unless the other person brings it up, and then on a limited basis. Politics is divisive, and I don’t want to start up with people, or have people get all upset because of political views.

  • Becky March 3, 2014, 10:34 AM

    I live in a huge community where both men and women come to shul regularly. The way me and my husband meet people is through our building, other dinners, and just saying hi after shul. We tend to invite people over a lot, and that really makes a difference especially if we got invited to their place. Also, having lots of wine helps with making friends and we also have a very friendly cat who loves strangers and frequently entertains the children who come with their parents. And don’t be afraid to meet up outside shul and Jewish events! Hope this helps.

  • Talia bat Pessi March 3, 2014, 11:40 AM

    I wonder if the women of your community, Heshy, know other women better or worse than you know other guys? I’ve always felt like going to minyan makes guys know each other better than the women, who don’t have to be in shul 3x/day, know each other.

  • Mattityahu March 3, 2014, 7:14 PM

    Chassidish women playing music chairs and dancing! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZeqEYb5guA

    Heshy, what do you think of this?? Put it on your blog and make it go viral!

    • Anonymous March 5, 2014, 8:07 AM


  • south bend March 3, 2014, 7:52 PM

    We used to have people in the community that would go out to the movies or a bar or for some live music, but the demographics has changed over the years. Now nobody would do something like that because they fear what others would think of them. Nowadays, if I want to go out for a beer, I go out with my goyish friends. I could care less what others think of me and so could they.

  • just sayin March 4, 2014, 2:31 AM

    “eat by”?
    Are you in NorCal or the shtetl?

    • Heshy Fried March 4, 2014, 8:59 AM

      The shtetl, that’s how we speak. If you grew up frum, you need to keep your bad grammar.

      • just sayin March 5, 2014, 7:26 AM

        i think its actually proper grammar in German.

        • A. Nuran March 5, 2014, 1:56 PM

          Well, what is Yiddish but badly-pronounced German with a bunch of loan words?

    • Anonymous March 5, 2014, 7:45 AM


  • Shragi March 4, 2014, 5:46 AM

    It’s important to know your neighbor’s politics and whether they go to mixed swimming so that you can start marketing your kids to them early.

  • Anonymous March 5, 2014, 8:05 AM

    We were surprised to meet a couple from our shul at a swingers club in another city. Go know.

  • Ruth March 5, 2014, 10:20 AM

    Make a list and target various people/couples each week. First just say Hi. Then, depending on the reaction you get from the ‘Hi’ – get to know them better bit by bit. The goal is to see who you may like to have a beer with – or have over your house.

    Your experience isn’t that unusual – unfortunately it’s the norm. Shake things up a bit and ‘go against the norm’.

  • Yosef March 17, 2014, 11:49 AM

    Ask them about their torrent server

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