Letter: I Miss the Old Lakewood

I speak as someone who has lived in Lakewood for nearly 30 years.

I’ve been wanting to talk about this for a long time, but yesterday’s Scoop article about a new shop opening in town prompted me to write this.

I happen to know which shop it was referring to, and as someone who has lived in Lakewood this long and watched the deterioration of kedusha in general, I have to say I (not a ben torah sitting and learning all day, but a regular balabus) was quite surprised as well.

But this letter isn’t about this shop specifically, it’s about the general level Lakewood has fallen.

Yes, this is still a great makom torah and there are dozens of schools and yeshivas, tons of chesed all day and night, but the old Lakewood is gone, and it will unfortunately never be the same again.

I won’t even go into the gashmius we are seeing which was unheard of back in the day, I can handle change, but I’m specifically referring to the level of tznius. We have lost the sensitivity as a Klal. I cannot pinpoint one specific issue and say this is what caused it. It just got worse over time. Perhaps it was the influx of residents who moved from out of town and brought along a lot of their town’s mentality with them, but that could just be the ‘maka b’patish’ as they say.

It still brings me great joy when I walk by batei midrashim and watch yungerleit walking in with their gemaras in their arms, it reminds me of the good old days when most of the town looked that way.

Again, I love Lakewood, the place I’ve called home for so long, but we need a lot of improvement. Perhaps each rav of their shul can address it and bring back Lakewood to the way it was back in the day. I know it’s a longshot, as there’s probably no way to go back, but I was just speaking my mind out of pain.

Thank you

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43 COMMENTS

  1. Agreed. Lakewood lost something over the years.
    It may be along with the whole generation not just Lakewood, but there was a certain kedusha bubble that seems to have disintegrated in much of Lakewood. (I say “much” because there are still some that have upheld their standards).
    The level of gashmiyus and seasonal updating has reached a level that burst the Lakewood bubble. Partially it’s because people needed parnassah and made stores and advertise and market and it leads to needing constant gashmiyus. Also because people moved to town for affordability (and ironically created a town that is no longer affordable 🤨).

    But yeah the old Lakewood is missed. Though I’m living it myself with leased cars that no longer leave me daily in the mechanic shop BH.

    I will say that the tznius clothing in stores issue is not a new thing though. It’s been slowly creeping its way in over the years. I believe there are some stores that have a policy that they won’t bring in clothing that are not ok. But many stores will do whatever the latest style is and the clientele buys it.

    I think each person needs to realize though that when shopping in any store, find what is tznius for you a you would when shopping in a mall.

  2. Agreed! Growing up in Lakewood of nearly 40 years ago it pains me greatly! There is no way to truly understand the pain unless you’ve lived in the Lakewood of yesterday. It is not the Lakewood I grew up in. Something I logically understand but emotionally feel saddened by. Although I would love the Lakewood of yesteryear to return, turning back time doesn’t work. May those who wish to retain the simplicity have much Hatzlacha in holding onto true Torah values and Shemira in passing on those values to their children.

  3. Yes I agree as a Lakewood resident for the past 23 years I agree we need mote ahavas Yisroel and unconditional love for our brothers and sisters. The way we treat parents at our schools with all the rejections shows that we are lacking enough ahavas Yisroel. It’s time to learn from chabad how we are supposed to treat out jewish brothers and sisters. No I am not a chabd chosid.

    • The problem with rejections is in nearly all instances the parents (I would write all instances but I am only personally familiar with a few dozen).
      Those who like to blame on either the Klal or specific Roshei Mosdos are guilty of Motzi Shem Ra among many other Aveiros.

  4. I agree completely. I am shocked when I see women with skirts above their knees and other breaches of tsnius. I don’t see the need for so many eateries, or all the entertainment venues. The advertisements for all the gashmius is over the top. I liked the simple lifestyle we all lived back then. If someone has money, he can still live toned down. We shouldn’t live like like we’re staying in golus in America forever. If we have it so good here why would people want Moshiac to come?

  5. i agree with you. i have also lived in lakewood for nearly 30 years.
    i just don’t see it very practical to express my frustration on the direction lakewood is going.
    I have moved out of lakewood as I feel its time for me to move on.
    I don’t say this out of frustration nor do i expect lakewood to go back to what it once was. I am a lot more comfortable living in a quite small town.
    As I have heard, if you can’t fight them, join them (or move out).
    Im not indicating you should move out of lakewood, but accept the reality

  6. I agree completely. I am shocked when I see women with skirts above their knees and other breaches of tsnius. I don’t see the need for so many eateries, or all the entertainment venues. The advertisements for all the gashmius is over the top. I liked the simple lifestyle we all lived back then. If someone has money, he can still live toned down. We shouldn’t live like like we’re staying in golus in America forever. If we have it so good here why would people want Moshiach to come?

    • Maybe if you would stop looking how short other women’s skirts are we would have less issues, look to correct yourself before you try to correct others.

  7. Why not concentrate on all the good this town ja to offer. People bemoaning the gashmius fail to mention that Lakewood is where the most tzedaka in the world is given out. Y3sthwrw can be improvement but let’s concentrate on the good and not be critical. That will certainly hasten the geula.

  8. As an out of towner I find your blame on out of towners distasteful. I did not bring my “town’s mentality” with me. I also find the lack of tznius to be quite a problem. But I try not to lay blame on anyone. And yes the rabbonim need to be oimed b’peretz.

  9. Agreed! Having grown up in Lakewood of 40 years ago the pain is real. One can only truly understand the difference if they were present in the Lakewood of yesterday. Although logically I understand that Lakewood has changed, emotionally it still saddens me. We cannot turn the clock back, and I only wish tremendous Hatzlacha to those wishing to maintain simplicity and true Torah values and may they have Shemira I’m passing on those values to their children.

  10. The writer above posts a potential solution to peoples complaints, just move. Lakewood is a growing town and there is no chance of it becoming a theocracy, this is the US after all. Folks who want to police the modestly levels of womens fashion offered in retail spaces in Lkwd need to get a grip. Live and let live or leave.

  11. Please, someone argue with me. As much as I love all yidden, when schools with lower standards opened for those moving into Lakewood that don’t keep to the old standards that was the beginning of the end.

    • Yeah you’re totally right, kids who don’t fit into your box mold shouldn’t go to school (sarcasm).

      Don’t say you love all yidden, clearly you don’t.

  12. The writer is right. The haters will hate and bring up schools which have nothing to do. Written with chachma and sensitivity. The root is the Yuge growth and the inevitable different types that come along when a family grows. We all wish tznius would be addressed but like all other issues the people who transgress don’t exactly listen to the rabbanim

  13. 100%. I feel the same way. But if we want to bring some of that back… the answer isn’t to ban stores. It’s to improve the education system. Stores serve the public. If there’s no demand for something… stores wont sell it. Lets improve the education system that’s bleeding kids and churning out those that would shop in these stores. Maybe if we teach less rashis and more hashkafa we can get back to as close to old lakewood as it’s possible at this point.

  14. lets start a new yishuv hayoshon based on the old lakewood way somewhere right near Lakewood so that we don’t have to be influenced by the new Lakewood but still have the greatness of the old lakewood…

  15. I lived in Lakewood for close to 40 years and loved what it stood for. However the last 10+ years the town has changed totally in many ways. ONLY if you lived and experienced the old can you understand what we are all talking about. We couldn’t take it anymore and left for smaller pastures. But i still miss the old Lakewood. There was and will never be anything like it again

  16. 100% correct. I heard being said that in years from now when they dig up Lakewood they will not find human remains just huge Bones from tomahawk rib steaks

  17. You can blame the first McMansion was built and the first Pizza Store with seating. It was all down hill from there .
    Having said that
    A true Believer would believe that everything is from the Ribonno Shel Olam. HE Is running everything that’s happening perfectly around us.

    Everything is a test and it’s still possible to run your home with the Shechina residing inside it despite all that’s going on in the world around us

  18. The problem is that “Im Ein Kemach Ein Torah” and so businesses starting opening to provide parnassah to the Kollel wives etc and one thing led to another, elevating the living standards under the pretext of “supporting my husband in learning”. Now Bochurim who want to stay in learning are looking for the high gashmiyus as well ie. wives who earn good money etc etc. That in my opinion is where it all began…

  19. Recently received a message from a “dear to me” refined, tzniusdig, high school girl : “funny- a girl could be fine with tznius, but struggles with loshon hora, and another could be fine with loshon hora, but struggles with tznius. Yet one is labeled yeshivish and the other is labeled modern”

  20. Ha! Amateurs! Here over 60 years, so just try and imagine how much change I’ve seen.

    I think one factor has been overlooked that is really no one’s “fault” (or everyone’s “fault”). That is, look at what been happening in the world around us over the same period time. The complete collapse of every vestige of morality on every level, physical, financial, social, etc. And no one can deny that, with the advent of the internet and smart phones that many more people are bombarded with messages from that degenerating culture than ever before. No, hockers, I am not raging against the internet or smart phones, just facing the fact that there is a lot more exposure of a lot more people. It used to be you basically had to keep TV, magazines and newspapers out to maintain a pristine home environment. No more.

    May Hashem recognize our distress and credit us with great zchus for at least striving to resist the influences that seek to destroy our pure, holy neshamos. That goes for everybody, even if you don’t like what I said. 😉

  21. What’s the difference Lakewood 50 years ago or Lakewood 50 years into the future? One still has to dress tzniusdig. It’s not nostalgia, it’s the Halocho.

  22. I miss lots of things from the past. Time goes on and things change. It’s part of life
    And btw people these days are more focused on connecting to yiddishkeit from the inside rather then the outside while it used to be the opposite. which one is better? i dont know but they’re both good

  23. As someone who was born here and lived here for the entire time that you’re talking about, I can agree with you in principle that there have been many changes.
    However, you must understand that you are one of those changes as well.
    During Reb Aharon’s days (and at the beginning of Reb Shneur’s days as well) if you went to work, (even to teach) you were encouraged to move back to Brooklyn so as to keep with the intention of building a pure Makom Torah.
    As more Baalebatim moved to Lakewood (or people who went to work stayed in Lakewood.) more infrastructure was introduced to accommodate.
    This new infrastructure was able to accommodate even more people which led the growth to continue. Each cycle had a continual degradation of the level of the B’nai Torah.
    As an example, in the 90s people were happy with a 15 year old car if they had one at all by the mid 2,000s people wanted less than five years old by 2014 it was common for young families to lease two cars etc.
    It is difficult for someone in the community to point and say “when I came things were great but it’s terrible now and that has nothing to do with my arrival or the changes that came with the wave I came in” because each minor change led the way for the next minor change.
    So in short, “Kshot atzmecha v’achar Kachin kshot acherim”

  24. Try moving to one of the newer outlying neighborhoods. You can get the best of both worlds! The nice out of town friendly, simple, torahdika lifestyle with the Lakewood mosdos a 15 minute drive away. It’s what I did bH.

  25. Lakewood was once mainly a town of idealistic Bnei Torah who were more focused on spiritual accomplishments than on material pursuits. It was the Shevet Leivi of Klal Yisroel in America. The rest of the Klal weren’t on this madreiga & many struggled with Tznius,kedusha, & materialism. Over time, the Bnei Torah are becoming a smaller minority as more & more Amcha Yidden have settled here.
    We should appreciate that these Bnei Torah are still living amongs us & that really the soul of Lakewood hasn’t changed. It’s just that a large number of poshiter materialistic Yidden now live here so it seems as though it’s so much different. As far as the Prutzos dressing in violation of halachah, this was a common issue in other Frum neighborhoods in the past & the next generation has moved here bringing with them the same laxity their mother’s had. Lakewood is very different but still very much the same!

  26. I think anyone who grew up here in the 80’s and 90’s feels the way you do. But we need to recognize that the world moves ahead, whether we like it or not. Things change, times change and all we have left are memories. Let’s take advantage of what we have now; these will be the times we miss in 30 more years.

  27. Am i the only one that’s not getting this letter at all? when i go shopping in Lakewood, all i see are Hashem’s beautiful children. im surrounded by kind, refined, helpful people.

    perhaps the writer just needs a new eye glasses prescription?

  28. While it is natural to feel nostalgically about the past, it is important to recognize that communities change and evolve over time, and this can be a positive thing. While the author expresses concern about the changes that have occurred in Lakewood over the years, I would argue that Lakewood has changed for the better in many ways.

    For example, Lakewood is still a great makom torah and there are dozens of schools and yeshivas, as well as tons of chesed happening all day and night. The community is strong and vibrant, with a wide range of social and educational opportunities available.

    Additionally, the changes in Lakewood have brought new people and perspectives to the community, which can enrich and enhance the overall community. While it is understandable to feel nostalgically about the past, it is important to embrace the present and look forward to the future with hope and optimism.

    However, it is also important to recognize that the challenges facing our community are complex and multifaceted, and it is not helpful or productive to oversimplify them. Instead of looking back wistfully on a romanticized version of the past, we should focus on finding ways to address the challenges facing our community in a constructive and positive way.

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