Letter: Why Did You Choose Lakewood?

Dear Lakewood,

After seeing the poll on TLS about if parents or schools should be deciding about mid winter break locations, and reading all the comments, I felt compelled to pen this letter to see what the TLS readers say about what I think may be the biggest question of all.

We are all wonderful people. We mean well. We really want to do what’s right. However, what’s right for you may not be right for me and that is ok. We are not the same and it is our life’s purpose to take our given talents and strengths and reach our potential while addressing our flaws and working to correct them. We each have our path and we should happily, calmly and excitedly work to achieve what we can.

Years ago, during a time when the world then couldn’t ever imagine our world today, when distractions and opportunities were nothing like they are now, still, Rav Aron Kotler ZT”L made a decision to move away from where most Yidden lived and plant seeds in Lakewood, with the hope and vision that it blossom into a Torahdiga town, with pure hashkofos, and with that, provide a life for those who wish to live such a lifestyle.

Rav Aron didn’t ask anyone to be like him, to give up anything for him, to change their lifestyle for him or anything else. He didn’t choose to change people, to change lifestyles or to push his agenda on anyone. Just the opposite. He chose to walk away from it all and instead start his own town with his ideology and wishes.

If this is the case, then I believe the bigger question, or perhaps the elephant in the room sort of speak, is much deeper and requires each person to look in the mirror and be totally true and honest to themselves. Why did you move out here? Why did you choose to move to this great town? It was built for a reason and set up for a reason. Lakewood was established only for those wishing to live in that cookie jar lifestyle. If you don’t want to be in that jar then why move here?

Nobody forced you to move here or even asked you to move here. It was your choice. Isn’t it wrong and disrespectful to move into someone else’s home and then change what they set up? Regardless of your reason to move out here, or if you were raised here then to choose to remain here, nobody should be trying to change what is supposed to be a certain type of a lifestyle here. Go be the next Rav Aron and start your own community but please do not come here and try to change Lakewood. It’s simply not nice.

Alas, I am afraid my letter is way too late for that. However, my question still remains – Why did you move here and why do you think it is ok to change the fundamentals of this great Ir hatorah?

Should the decision where children can or cannot go for mid-winter break be decided by the schools or the parents?
13865 votes

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  1. Harav Aharon Kotler ZT”L started Bais Midrash Govoah and the beautiful Lakewood community only for people who are ready to devote their life to Torah and Ruchnius. Sadly that kedusha has left the town. Cause today if someone truly wants to devote their life to Torah and Ruchnius then Lakewood is not the place anymore. Maybe try Denver, Boston or Detroit that have beautiful Torah communities with full Torah frum chinuch school’s and still have a restaurant or 2 it’s not like living in the desert.

    Lakewood and BMG today might have thousands of more talmidim learning all day but with all the gashmius that the town has filled with sadly the kedusha of devotion to Torah and Ruchnius has gone waaaaaaay down and doesn’t exist anymore. Yes those same people today that might be learning full day but today their also filled with tons of unnecessary gashmius that just 20 or 30 years ago was not around town and you were able to live a life devoted to Torah and Ruchnius like Harav Aharon Kotler ZT”L Originally planned for.

    Very sad to see what happened to this town even if there’s now THOUSANDS of more talmidim learning versus less talmidim but all completely devoted and attached to a life of Torah and Ruchnius

    • if you go to BMG you will still see it filled with yungerleit living a modest to very extremely modest lifestyle who spend their days learning Torah with an areingetunkeit which is unparalleled anywhere else in this country, they do not seek kavod, also their faces shine with the glow of mussar and when you leave you will immediately forget the impression and feel pulled to run to go buy some gashmiyus but you always can go there tomorrow and be inspired once again

    • The Schools & the parents are partners in the children’s chinuch. It’s a disgrace that the schools even have to make rules about not hurting the chinuch of the children. Twenty years ago there was no need for rules, the parents had enough seichel to keep to those standards on their own. We now have a large group of parents who don’t know any better & need the school rules for their own childrens sake.

  2. So, do you then agree with the non jews who lived here before R’ Ahron and BMG became dominant and those living in Jackson and Toms River that tons of Frum people with different values moving in should be stopped?Or does your thinking only run one way?

    Also many of the people born here don’t share the values of the older generation. They aren’t obligated to move.

  3. Your negativity should really make you look inside and see if you’re the problem.

    I’ve been on vacation in Orlando for two days, with my family, with nothing but geshmak kosher food. There is a minyan in the complex with numerous minyanim and sefarim. I see people learning there almost every time I go.

    With the matzav in EY, people deserve to spend their hard earned money taking a vacation (while following complete hashkafa that we are accustomed to). The Gemara is filled with Tanaim and Amoraim who were wealthy, their tables filled with delicacies during the week and Shabbos and yiddishkite in no way inhibits making kosherdik memories with your family.

    Stop running these articles, it’s clear they come from a place of sheker and is meant to made other yiddim feel bad. Come out here and maybe see the achdus, the Torah being learned and the yiddim from all around making a kiddish Hashem. No offense, this sounds like a you problem.

    • This is a funny post. Very twisted. Made me laugh.

      But, seeing the sentence “with the matzav in Eretz Yisroel people deserve to take a vacation” made me cry. Yiddin at war and yidden dying every day is the time you deserve a vacation???? Wow now THATS twisted

    • BECAUSE of the matzav in Eretz Yisroel we are staying home.

      I have been to Florida in the past with my kids (after asking a Sheila ‘cuz it’s against school rules) but this year we are staying local and keeping it simple.

      And my kids UNDERSTAND!

      And when people ask us what we are doing & we explain it nicely without the holier than thou attitude we are getting such positive reinforcement.

      Perfect for this shabbos…be a Nachshon!

  4. If you check the votes you can see that those who have access to TLS largely believe that parents should make that decision. Many of those that adhere to the yeshiva lifestyle that Reb Aharon envisioned do not even have access to this site. I wonder if the results would be quite the opposite if this poll was somehow done in BMG and other such venues.
    Reality is that this town has become a city with a wide diversity. A poll on the internet cannot reflect the full range.

  5. People move to places for many reasons including location, convenience, cost of housing, cost of living, neighbors, school systems, job opportunities, business opportunities, quality of medical care, relatives, leisure activities, etc.
    With all due respect to R’ Aron he never did & never will own Lakewood. Communities grow, die, & change. That’s part of life. To tell people if you’re not like us you shouldn’t be living in Lakewood seems the height of Chutzpah. America is a free country & everyone has a right to live wherever they want (& as long as legal) to live the lifestyle they want.
    “Isn’t it wrong & disrespectful to move into someone else’s home & then change what they setup?” Funny, because when the residents of Jackson & Tom’s River said this exact same thing we called them “Antisemites”

    • @Flying J
      Why don’t we try to pull the same shtick in New Square and change the town from its original setup?
      That was set up to be a certain way so perhaps it’s correct that Lakewood was also set up as a certain way.

        • What does “Lakewood was also setup a certain way” even mean? I wasn’t aware someone/thing owned Lakewood & can tell people how to live. There’s a Hispanic community in Lakewood why don’t you tell them to meet your standards or leave. If a Reform congregation wants to build a Temple in Lakewood do they need permission from BMG? Will you demand they meet your lifestyle standards? Or are you only talking about Orthodox Jews & Ch’V a child seeing a different type of yarmulke or Hashkafa will send them on a spiral to OTD?
          What really worries me is the obvious poor Chinuch at home. The Chasid in my class wears a Shtreimel, the son of a big Ruv is a Rosh Yeshiva of a well know Yeshiva. Some are Rabbanim, some are Rebbes in Yeshivas & some are also Doctors, Lawyers & Accountants. It never mattered where they Davened or went to camp, or if the father only wore white shirts or their Yarmulkes were different. We learned together, we played together, we grew up together & even many years later the feelings & friendships are still intact.

  6. I was forced/priced out of my neighborhood in Brooklyn, by Chinese, (bp) who were forced/priced out by arabs (Chinatown) who were forced/priced out by Russians (brighten beach) …
    Point is… Neighborhoods change its been done all over the world, new hard working immigrants push out the old guard, or neighborhoods beautify and attracts a higher class people (like in Williamsburg where the yuppies are) or Jersey city by the water pushing out low class colored people.. Or.. Or there are hundreds of examples..

    So where does a frum Jew go? To another frum community.. So many ended up in Lakewood.. You have no claim of ownership, just like I didn’t have in bp, or my grandparents had in lower east side, or my in laws in the Bronx.. Everyone was pushed out for one reason or the other..

    To constantly hear the complaining from Jewish people against their brethren for moving in here as if they own the place is not right in many ways…

    We respect you and your way of living. You can continue to shop at NPGS, I won’t harras you.

    But Why are you continuously harassing the new comers for what they want to buy, and for stores catering to them…

    Oh my, I have so much more to say. But I think you get my point? You will probably disagree but these are facts.
    Neighborhoods change and communities get uprooted by another community, so b”h here you’re only invaded by fellow frum jews and not by low class goyim…

    Gtg Learn my Daf..

        • Mr Sol – The Orthodox community forgets that non-Jews are reading your publications. You want anti-Semitism to be addressed, but some Orthodox publications have no issue with your community calling us non-Jews “goyim” in letters or articles. Why the double standards? Basic civility and decency at least in the public is a 2 way street, even if our communities do not mingle.

  7. I didn’t choose Lakewood.
    Lakewoos chose me.

    I was born here.

    The real answer is that those chartered with maintaining Rav Aharon’s legacy failed.

    Also there was a kehilla here before Rav Aharon got on a boat and sailed to America

  8. there’s 2 important things to considered when answering your question.
    1) many people here are already next generation (born around 1990 and later) from Lakewood itself. they may have different ideas/mindset from the older generation. so its not like they moved into Lakewood.
    2) even if you are 100% correct about Lakewood had an established way of doing things for many years and people shouldn’t change it. you should know the world constantly changes and its not fair to insist Lakewood stay the same. I can assure you that European lifestyle before the war and post war in Lakewood during R’ Aron times were different. you need to face todays challenge and not blame it on younger generation alway messing things up, because that’s life. yeridas hadoros.
    lets be thankful we don’t have the challenges of being mechalel shabbos (like in the early American days)
    p.s. I respect you letter and I think you point is very valid

  9. wow i moved here because BMG established itself that you can’t go anywhere else…So the question is why asking all bochurim to come to Lakewood and then stay in Lakewood and then ask why did you come to Lakewood? does it make sense to anyone?

  10. Rav Aaron came to Lakewood in 1943 to a town that was known as the land of 100 hotels,
    this myth that Rav Aaron came to Lakewood to get away from the city is just flat out false and needs to being repeated.
    on a take two podcast with Sruli Besser Rav Aaron’s grandson and namesake tells over the real reason BMG moved to Lakewood, and that was because the Frum townspeople requested of Rav Aaron to.
    if Rav aaron was truly looking for a quiet place to build BMG he probably wouldve stayed in white plains where it originally started

    • Same here but at the same time, we can’t change reality that bh Klal Yisroel grew and multiplied and the world at large has changed drastically and that brings all kinds of challenges as well. Growing up, we didn’t have the nisyonos of today’s generation such as technology and gashmiyus. We can’t completely fight it and it’s tricky when and what to give in etc. I’m still living extremely simply and struggle to pay for the basics while both parents are working hard full time just to cover the monthly bills bh. Yet, I still have to make sure my children aren’t left out and deprived and that includes making sure they have a nice time mid winter vacation while going somewhere in line with our and schools’ hashkafos and our budget.
      Fyi, the whole world is more gashmiyus. When I attended sem in Israel in the late 90’s, it was before the Rav Shefa mall, there was almost no place to eat out even if we would have wanted to. It was also before the luxurious expensive apts in central Jerusalem and doing chesed once a week or going away for Shabbos meant seeing and witnessing the true mesiras nefesh by so many families, not young wealthy American couples being fully supported.
      FYI, there are many neighborhoods in Lakewood where you can still witness the old time Lakewood. Focus on the positive.

  11. Prob the schools are looking to be in control they really dont care whats best for the school as whole and if you cant figure that out it may be time for you grow out of being school age minded person and become a bit wiser

  12. There are a few realities here. Lakewood isn’t a theocracy. Many people who’ve moved here the last 10 years came in order to take advantage of cheaper housing in a developing community. People who would buy in don’t get into the schools that easily so maybe there’s an attitude of us vs them. There’s a Lakewood burnout culture of people feeling like they can do whatever they want because they’re frustrated with the system. Ultimately the question should really be should parents set an example by abiding by the rules even if they’d rather take a vacation to Florida.

  13. For Yeshivos to be successful there must be a balance of the HOme and the Yeshivah contrary to popular opinions of either or; meaning some thing that the yeshivah should be making all the decisions for the child, thisis folly!
    It states Shelosha Shutfin Badam which seems to place parents as the Primary care givers and that would mean that the Yeshivah is only as a Shaliach of the Parents.
    That means the Yeshivah must understand its value but also its limitations as being messengers. Yeshivos as Kodosh as they are are Dependant on the aas of the parents not the otherway around.

    But then there is the other type of foolishness that has been mostly extinguished and that it that there is just the parents say and that is all!? No! A Ben Torah family needs to educate themselves in how to humble themselves to their own appointed messangers and realize that much much of what the yeshivah has to say and suggest is from a superior source when coupled with the parents own opinions then if the child would be left with just the opinions of the parents alone.

    Thisis clear from the history of losing jews to assimilation when there are no yeshivos!

    So then what should there be?

    A balance a Hard worked on Blance where the Parents are not smug about countering the Yeshivah but like wise where the yeshivah is not smug about overstepping their bound into the territory of the childs Home and the Parents opinions.

    The parents have to recognize that they are Balei Battim and thus have a Daas that needs to be fused with Torah to some extent otherwise all they wil have is Hepich Daas Torah but with fusion they will have also the Torah side to add to their Daas and the school has to know that they are only messengers fo rthe parents and that even with all their kedushah that they are are servicing the parents and that should place them in a humble position as well.

    This takes work and repect on both sides.

    Its always a question of Balance otherwise what you end up with is tunnel vision extremeism and “Farfrumtkiet” C”V instead of stable Frumkiet.

    This needs Siyata Dishmaya and Teffilaha and work!

    Hatzlacha and Bracha!

  14. In My Opinion Parents even Parents in Kolel are Ballie Baatim and therfore have a daas that is Hepich Daas Torah and that is OK as long as these parents are Bnei Torah Seeking to have Torah Shine a Light on their Da’as thus turning what would be on its own a Daas of Hepich to daas that opens a gateway into Torah and actually starts a conversation in Torah ; without such a daas then the torah would just be [ossibly stuck in the corner and not be dealt with but with ones Daas that is flawed and ones seeking out for the Torahs light on that very relevant Daas then there is Esek Hatorah.

    And dont make the mistake in thinking that Only Parents of all types have daas Ballei Baatim because how could they not have such adaas if they are “House caretakers in a physical world” make no such mistake in thinking only they need this dynamic of seeking out Torah… no! the same applies to the Owners of Schools and Menahalim who also have a Daas and that daas in my opinion must by definition be made up of Daas Balei Baatim; but this is not a nock on them but rather its the Human condition we all have a Yetzer and the Yetzer is the biggest source of fat and juicy daas Ballei Baatim. Ignoring this wont help. stuffing ourselves with daas Torah does not make this earthly daas go away but rather what does do it is seeking out Torah and then when ones onw personality has what to say about what the tOrah has to say a Learning Torah Education process begins and the Daas Balei Batim of bothe the Parents and the the Yeshivah Owners opens up doors in Torah and kedushah Starts to Riegn.

    In My opinion the problem with the Maskilim is not that they had Daas Balei Batim the problem of the maskilim is that the only daas they d was RAW daas Balei Batim without the spice of Torah to change that same Daas into another version of its own self.

    Even a faulty daas is not totally faulty and with the right spice of Torah an Beautiful abode is made for the Torah to enter.

    Alas Those that neglect to Hear with their ear or easr what Gedolim say and what the Torah has to say are left with RAW daas that cant be anything else then Hepich Daas.

    Afterall Torah Is min Hashamayim and still is and and always will be Min Hashamyim and never will Torah be Torah Min Haaretz so how can Torah Not be literally hepich anything we come up with, withour own Daas?

    May we merit to a proper Balance of our own Daas and the daas of Torah may merit having our Sechel interact with Torah so that we should end up with Torah!

  15. “isn’t it disrespectful to move into someone’s home and then change what they set up?”
    That’s a very good question. It would be nice to hear an answer to that question when it comes to Jackson. I don’t mind new people moving. What I do mind is how they are changing the town to suit their needs regardless of what the people who live there think. It has nothing to do with anyone being antisemitic.

  16. I take umbrage with the statement we are all wonderful people.
    I believe a good percentage of people are actually horrible people.
    The evidence is all over the place. Just look at this town.

  17. The Jewish world in general has shifted over the last 20-30 years. Every single llarge frum city including out of town, Monsey, Brooklyn etc has become more materialistic than then. Lakewood isn’t in a vacuum. It has grown at least twenty fold since then and naturally the more a city grows, the more ruchnius and the more gashmius that will grow along with it. Smaller towns have the advantage of being able to control things more and keep much of the gashmius out and that is why Lakewood was able to be what it was in the 60’s-90’s but that’s an impossible reality given the current numbers. When I was growing up in the 80’s and 90’s we went to Lakewood on chol hamoed from Brooklyn so my parents could show us the ideal way to aspire to live. I still remember looking in wonder and amazement at the simple homes and lifestyle and looked up to Lakewood as a town where the majority was in kollel. Now people come here and admire the homes and shop and see the current trends. That’s what people who came to visit Brooklyn back then did. The average family moving from Brooklyn to Lakewood is not coming to live a more torahdik lifestyle. Brooklyn is very torahdik! The advantage is cheaper housing for more living space and yards, much better shopping with parking spaces, quieter more serene living, basically every amenity is offered in Lakewood and that’s the reality when a city grows. This generation thinks of Lakewood the way my generation viewed Brooklyn just with less traffic and noise! But that is not to say there isn’t still a sizeable simple yeshivish part of Lakewood, just it’s mostly my generation and older. Lakewood is more diverse now and that is not a bad thing at all. To go back to what it was, means creating a city of mostly the older generation and just the very yeshivish part of Lakewood. The younger generation wants things different, no different than you not wanting to live the way people did 20 years before you were born either. Each generation adapts to change and Lakewood is no different.

  18. Well guess what, the town has changed big time as you can see by the votes. so why ask the question why we moved here the question is why don’t you move out of here, maybe move to a place in Nashville Tennessee.

  19. When a tragedy happens and you want your kids to learn a lesson don’t Do it by putting more negativity on them instead add something positive Like saying more ‏ ‏תהלים! What positive will come out by taking away their vacation. Take away there vacation and then me and the other people in Lakewood have to deal with your kids later on. Same thing goes for ellul zman instead of taking the suger out of your coffee say some more ‏ ‏תהלים (that’s a example) hashem gave you both use both.

  20. When I went to school it was way different than today we never had cop cars in the parking lot and we learned we ate food that we liked!!!! and used books, what are they teaching kids these days?

  21. When a school makes a rule that no kids can bring the latest toy most parents in the school understand that even though the kids who it affects go nuts. WHY? Because the parents and school see that this is not good for the kids and function of school.
    The same applies here the school is making the same rule about not going on to extreme of a vacation in middle of the school year now if it would not affect the parents they the parents would understand it.
    BUT NOW THAT IT AFFECTS THEM THEY TURN INTO THE KIDS and get blinded by actually what is the best thing for the school
    (I understand that this is not actually in school I’m referring to you parents who are upset about it to a point where you cant see where the school is coming from and act just like the kids act)

  22. You bash what Lakewood has become but when someone is sick c”v or when a tragedy happens- you know how much money is poored out of these people’s pockets. The people who donate a ton of money so that people can spend there day learning- those may be the people who also want to go on lavish vacations once a year with there family.
    All I’m saying is- I don’t get what’s the big deal that there is a wide variety of people here. We all support each other. We all hold up each other.
    Balabatim give there money so yungerleit can hold up the world with there Torah.
    Live and let live.

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