Woodbourne Memories

The first time I ever got to see Woodbourne in full swing was on the Saturday night of Shabbos Nachamu about 10 years ago. The kids at risk crisis was in full swing and that meant that Woodbourne was as well. Those were the days when kids would drive up 2 hours each way from Brooklyn, just to smoke in front of PJ’s game room and wait on line for ice cream at the Kosher Inn. It was Woodbourne’s heyday, smoking pot under the bridge by the Neversink river and getting it on in that little alleyway on the side of Woodbourne Pizza were favorite activities of the yeshiva rebels who ventured up 100 miles to hang out with their girlfriends who were mothers helpers at Clearview Bungalows or counselors at Camp Sternberg, all the while dodging the “spies” who had were Rabbis from their yeshivas who aimed to catch them and throw them out of school.

Those were the days when every yeshiva rebel had to wear Airwalks or Doc Martins, with wide legged Jnco jeans with the little man on the back, and a chain wallet. If you were worth your yeshiva rebel status you had be a big fan of Metallica and have long bangs tucked under your flat and small velvet yarmulke that was sitting on the front of your head or even taking up some forehead real estate.

Shabbos Nachamu had been spent with my old man and my buddy Jerry in my dad’s friends Trailer where he keeps all his classic cars. It was up the road from Woodbourne in Neversink. I went to Rochester for yeshiva, the infamous yeshiva rebel school, right up there with Adelphia and Rudinsky, so naturally I wanted to take part in what was deemed as the party of the year.

People in the yeshiva rebel/kids at risk crowd would talk about Shabbos Nachamu in Woodbourne for three months in advance. It was like the superbowl the yeshiva rebel. The playoffs were events like Purim at Chaim Berlin- which I hear has since been shut down, and Simchas Bes Hashoyavas in Crown Heights, but nothing compared to a night of fighting, trying to get some, and smoking under the bridge in Woodbourne, with occasional ride hitching to Kiamesha Lanes, the other big hangout for yeshiva rebels back in the day, it still is a hangout- but the yeshiva rebels have gone underground.

So my dad drops us off and goes to look in the seforim store, because there really isn’t anything to do in Woodbourne if you don’t want to eat pizza, besides go to the seforim store so my dad went to hang out in the seforim store while we went to stand on a street corner and stare at all the girls, even back in the day it was sausage fest, but there were at least 1 girl for every three guys- it reminded me of singles events- where it was always a high girls to guy ratio.

There constantly minivans pulling up and dropping more guys in Jncos and girls in jeans skirts or the black slinky ones with the panty lines that were all the rage when I was a kid. Not one girl was wearing pants and or shorts, in fact Jerry and I were the only kdis wearing shorts and sandals. I have noticed over the years that yeshivish folks are so used to pants that they rarely wear shorts, even the ones who are off the derech.

At the time I remember thinking that I was probably one of the only kids there who’s father had willingly dropped me off and was hanging out in the area as well. This was the parents worst nightmare, I fully remember when the “kids at risk crisis” was brought to light and considered huge – of course they never actually solved it, they did things like close down pizza stores on Saturday night so the kids wouldn’t hang out and instead of having kids hang out with kosher food in a semi-supervised environment the kids went to open houses and were able to do whatever they pleased- brilliance huh?

This was in the era before Mishpocha Magazine, I do wonder what they would have written. I can imagine them writing “we cant figure it out, why would teenagers be interested in having fun like regular people, where did we go wrong?” Then they would blame it on high tuition prices and kids not getting enough attention in school. Well back in the day the Jewish observer were the ones to cut the article. The famous issue that had this one “heart breaking” store about the mother who slowly realized her son was going off the derech. First he started wearing a smaller yarmulke, then he started wearing light colored pants, then he started saying Israel instead of eretz yisroel- all the sudden he was snorting lines out of hundred dollar bills at Primetime Billiards.

I remember firmly that I didn’t actually enjoy Woodbourne that night, first off I didn’t know anyone, second it really wasn’t my scene, I was never a bonified yeshiva rebel- I really hadn’t had the ability. I was in the school, I had the friends, but my old man wouldn’t have minded if I was smoking pot and getting it on with girls, in fact he probably would have rooted me on with the girls. I grew up too modern to ever be a yeshiva rebel, or even a yeshiva guy. Coed camps and eating non-kosher milchigs out while on ski trips nullified my chances to become a true yeshiva rebel well before I even knew that there were sects of Jews that didn’t let their kids converse with the opposite sex.

However years later I did have a chance to enjoy Woodbourne, these were the years when Rochester guys worked in all the establishments there and free pizza was a way of life. Both pizza stores had Rochester guys and the seforim store as well, it was a great thing- and allowed you to hang out and know people and not look like a wandering fool. I was also able to drive over to Kiamesha and check out the scene, for some reason Kiamesha Lanes always retained the hotties and although they were young, dumb and incredibly boring- there was nothing else to do on Saturday night in the Catskills. Only once did I actually drive up from NYC for the scene I distinctly remember it sucking real bad.

Things started to slow down as the founders of the yeshiva rebel movement grew up, bought cars, frummed out in Niveh, entered the learner earner programs at IDT and started families. The new generation came in with their Ipods and Abercrombie and it was never the same again. By the way, by the founders I mean the people that led to articles in the Jewish Press and Observer- I understand that yeshiva rebels have been around for years- heck my old man went to Lakewood and Chaim Berlin and dropped acid at Woodstock, what I mean are the people that started the whole movement of yeshivas and articles aimed at dispelling this crisis.

Like the shidduch crisis there is no solution and it is a fact of life. Kids will rebel and some will stay rebellious. What is interesting is the fact that most yeshiva rebels go off for reasons that are not so philosophical. You hardly ever find kids going off because of reading too much Freud or Nietzsche- nope the only things these kids usually read are the back of video game cartridges and their facebook accounts. Most of the time it is from bad experiences or just wanting to live a little.

Someone should do a documentary on yeshiva rebels called: Ten years after kids at risk crisis: Where are they now?

Click here for my famous Yeshiva Rebel of the 90’s post.