Monsey observations: my first week

I have been in Monsey for one week including two shabbosim and I have noticed many things. I think survey of a newly transplanted persons feelings about Monsey has got to start with driving. I think that the one thing someone notices immediately besides for the inordinate amounts of Chassidim playing chicken by running across the street only to run back and return to the sidewalk while holding their beaver hats- is the lack of derech eretz that 99% of those who drive in Monsey have.

Take a trip down Maple avenue, its my main street in terms of getting around and out of Monsey and you will see some of the worst driving outside of Borough Park and Israel. Cars stop in the middle of traffic to pick up hitchhikers with little or no regard for people behind them, blinkers are for apicorsim I can imagine them saying as manners are for the goyim. There are no goyim so I of course cannot compare the local goy driving abilities to that of the frummies, but I assume they are not as bad.

Blinkers and flashers are used sparingly as if they were trying to save electricity. Then we have the hesitation abilities that Monsey residents have, they will blast by a street at 35 miles per hour and decide later on that they should have turned there and suddenly there is one of those nearly flipping over the kid filled minivan turns. Or maybe they just bust out some “care for no one” u-turn, its painful to watch.

The yentas may be worse then the men, I have decided that almost all women in Monsey are yentas, there are not many regular women. I don’t mean yentas in a bad way, that’s just the culture. Every time you meet a women she needs to hear your entire story and she thinks she has some “ideas” for you- if you didn’t know that this meant shidduchim- you may think she was talking about debt consolidation or diet plans. This is why I dafka have to wear a colorful shirt to shul, so they scrap all their “ideas”, I am finished with answering exactly what my learning schedule is. I learn half hour day, what else?

So anyway these yentas are all over the place. You have the hocker yentas in lexus SUV’s who do not work and instead text message on their cell phones while they drive God knows where. Because there is nothing to do in Monsey besides eat and shop for table cloth covers and snoods. Then you have the 15 seat van yentas talking to other 15 seat van yentas in the middle of a red light and when it turns green, no amount of honking can tear them away. They always wave their hands and I can just hear them saying “wiat a minute will ya” in the yenta voice of course.

I have noticed that the washing cup replaces soap in Monsey. I guess they feel the holiness of water poured into a plastic cup with two handles will cleanse their hands of all bacteria. I personally prefer the soap, but I have yet to be in a shul with soap. Maybe people scrub their hands with the chains that are connected to the washing cups to prevent any snide yeshiva bochur from making off with the cups.

The tissues in shuls, no matter if it’s in the bathrooms or on the tables in the sanctuary seem to be made of recycled sandpaper. I figure that is why the boxes have pictures of mountains on them, to freshen you up through rubbing stone-like tissues on your face. I must say I am impressed because most shuls outside Monsey have those ghetto bathroom tissues that come out of those ancient dispensers that never get the job done- but then again they have soap to clean your hands, that’s the trade off I guess.

I davened last week in a shul that the Rabbis was machpid to start mincha after shkia, yes it was weird and it kind of sucked because it meant that all the misnagdim davened before and we had to wait for the Rebbe and streimelach homeboys to daven again. The family described the shul as heimishe. I thought it was chassidish, they insisted that the shul was heimishe and that their family which to me was yeshivish was in fact heimishe. I then got a lesson in all the different “ishes”. One shul in the area was called the Kalta Litvaks- which meant they were very cold and straight laced, like trying to make up for the fact they were not yekkishe by trying hard to be.

The more modern shul was not modern at all, but it just wasn’t litvishe or heimishe. I have come to the conclusion based on my two shabbosim that people in the yeshiva world of Monsey have a different view of what Modern Orthodox is to most of the folks who grew up modern. It is all relative though. Anyway as I was saying, this family tried to differentiate heimishe from everything I imagined it to be.

To me heimishe was another way of saying we are frummer then you, but for some reason we use the Yiddisher term of “warm” and usually it meant only if you were in the sloppy penguin getup like fellow heimishe folks. So this heimishe shul was very warm, I was sweating in fact, but besides for being warm it wasn’t cold. It was the first time I have ever been in a shul where I was the only non-white shirt, non-black hat, non-velvet yarmulke guy and no one stared. The little kids who like to do the “Borough Park Stare” just minded their own business it was really weird. People even said good shabbos and welcome. I was impressed, until I found out the shul was built with money from some fraudulent dealings and the guy was in jail, weird.

One of the kids of the family I stayed at on my first shabbos was actively shidduch dating someone and telling me all about it. The mother was also into these stories and we shared our experiences. I learned some shocking things mostly about the yeshivishe dating world (by the way since I am living in Monsey I have to start adding an “E” at the end of words like Livish and Yeshivish- this is how things are done, it separates the frummies from the infoltrators from places like YU and Teanack) So this dude spends loads of dough taking girls out, and all they get from it is a coke. Its all the delivery, I never lounges could mean sitting in a some fancy hotel lobby and ordering soda from a white gloved man who serves it on silver. This kid likes to do things classy, maybe because he is not spending his own money, and one of the things I was shocked at is how much he spends on parking in the city. I learned that girls will sometimes say no to second date, based on the guy not going into a parking garage and parking on the street. I informed him that Sunday was free at all NYC meters, which elicited a shocking “I didn’t know that”.

Based on my week or so in Monsey I have learned something else, single men like myself do not move to Monsey and if they do, their sanity is questioned. The only single men here are weird, divorced, or in their mid 20s learning and attending Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teanack because they except al of their credits from yeshiva, or they are in their young 20’s working in one of the local restaurants, lazy and go to RCC or Ramapo College. In fact several of these fellows I met were shocked that I wanted to move to Monsey and were also shocked that I was religious. Most of these fellows in RCC are semi-cracked out “bummy” as the yeshiva world calls them lazydox fellows who watch loads of TV and drive to the city whenever they need entertainment.

I have also learned that there is nothing to do in Monsey and the only reason why people live here is because its cheaper then everywhere else and still a rip-off. In fact the streets are so dangerous for kids to play that the only thing for kids to do is eat pizza and play at Viola Park. Looks of bewilderment are always visible when I ask people if there are any galleries, live music or museums around here and they all say “what do you want with those” basically culture in Monsey is reserved for sitting on the couch with the new copy of mishpocha magazine.

I have also noticed that even though its 50,000 acres and located 10 miles from the heart of Monsey, many people have never heard of Harriman State Park and are shocked that, that was the reason I moved here. People simply stay in Monsey and do nothing but eat pizza, good reason for there to be tons of cracked out-frummy rebel- types in Monsey. So much that some pizza stores are threatened by Rabbis if they do not black people from sitting in their shops on Saturday nights.

I do love the fact that people in Monsey serve potato kugel before Friday night mincha, this is a general tradition of the yeshivishe sects, and it happens everywhere, I just rarely go to frumies houses so often, so I have been able to partake in this tradition two weeks in a row.

I have also got to give rave reviews for the two kiddushim I attended. One at the Diamond Shul in Concord and one in some basement shul at the beginning of Mariner Way. Both were shockingly good and very ghetto. Monsey folks don’t have time for such things as sliced peppers arranged around a bowl of Russian dressing or stella dora cookies. They like cholent and keegel as the local dialect suggests. Both shuls had awesome cholent, kishka buried in whole pieces within the brown mess, oily potato kugel that could be taken with your hands and good cake. Actually today at the Mariner shul they had this real good chocolate roll cake, maybe kokosh who knows, I was pounding it.

I have also noticed that people in Monsey talk about Goyim as if they are a different race, then again frummies around here are pretty darn racist. When they say they word goyim its almost as if it said with disgust, it is I know, but is this one of those things I am just not used to because I lived amongst “them” my whole life.

The lack of women’s sections in the shuls is getting to me. I mean I love davening and all, but I always love getting up and chopping a few peaks you know. In fact now that I think of it I rarely even see women, in the morning I see them walking to school with the flat shoes and bullet proof stocking and saying tehilim while waiting at the bus stop, but not really in normal contact.

Remember these are only my first perceptions I am sure it will change as time moves on and I get used to not having soap.