Readers’ Scoop: Where To Daven

Readers-Scoop-Logo smallI am a single Modern Orthodox/Religious-Zionist guy in my late 20s who lives in Lakewood. I have to say that I think Lakewood to me has its ups and downs, positives and negatives. First the positives: I like the fact that there are so many kosher establishments to choose from. I feel safe when walking on the street in frum neighborhoods. Many people are upstanding and nice but here is the downside: I also feel that quite a few people treat me with curiosity at best and concealed contempt at worst. I am a sensitive individual, perhaps more sensitive than i ought to be and I often pick up a negative vibe from people; it’s almost as if the person is telling me, you don’t belong here, this place is only for the black hat crowd. Children don’t seem to know what to make of me. I think it’s lamentable that they are not exposed to the fact that there are many different types of Jews who wear many different types of clothes. I actually overheard 2 little munchkins debating whether i;m Jewish or not, since I wear blue jeans.

My biggest challenge has been finding a place to daven. I’ve tried several shuls and I’ve felt very uncomfortable in all of them. I know that Lakewood does not really have an MO shul anymore (even sons of Israel is composed mostly of charedim now) but I’m looking for an open minded place where people are not judgemental and accept people the way they are with ahavat yisrael. If anyone knows of such a place in Lakewood, please let me know.

Thanks for listening.

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59 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Lakewood Resident,
    Everyone is welcome in Lakewood, but please remember that Lakewood today is predominantly a yeshivishe community. The shuls, yeshivas and schools reflect that. If you are looking for a more specific modern community you have come to the wrong place. I hope this is not a new tayna / crisis.

  2. Firstly, it’s not a sad comentary on Lakewood that you feel out of place: Lakewood IS overwhelmingly black hat. I’m sure the first few chassidim that moved in felt akward when they first moved in as well. If people stare, then that’s just impolite, but you ARE different, and Lakewood is an insulated community. That’s just the way it is- nothing personal.
    Also, there are many shuls that would not blink at someone not being a black hatter coming to them, especially on the “other side” of the lake. Try Meor Chaim (corner of Adams and Miller), very nice crowd that won’t stare/bother you. Just don’t talk by davening (which has nothing to do with being yeshivish anyway).
    Question: the same way I wouldn’t move into Deal, since it is predominately a Sephardic community (and I am not), why would you live somewhere that is predominately different than you as well?

  3. I was once in shul wearing a ski cap as well as a white shirt and black pants when a little child brought me a siddur and opened it to the right place. I thought it was beautiful that a child should do that for someone he thought didn’t know how to daven properly. However, what I didn’t find beautiful is that the child made that assumption because I wasn’t wearing a black hat.

  4. try minyan shelanu . best place in town . also a place to try is chabad on central. they have black hats. no hats . cowboy hats . jeans . shreimels , srugeys . and nachmans ,u name it

  5. all shuls in Lakewood that I know of have a very diversified clientele where you would probably find others like you. Even in Sons of Israel there should have been many like you.

  6. Whats wrong with us teaching our children to be like us? We dont want our children to dress like goyim, We dont want our children to be busy with “Tikun olam” “Ahavat yisrael” or whtvr catch phrase they are using now. There is nothing wrong with children being suspicious of a yid who dresses like a goy. Yes hopefully when they get older they will know that there are many types of Jews and we should be mekarev them all etc.

  7. I’m looking for an open minded place where people are not judgemental and accept people the way they are with ahavat yisrael. If anyone knows of such a place in Lakewood, please let me know.

    If you find a place like that like that ANYWHERE let me know.Bottom line is in most places if the majority of the people feel strongly about living and being a certain way, any one who doesn’t conform is in fact an outsider and will be treated that way.Not out of malice, but due to ‘birds of feathers…’I’m sorry to say this but I just don’t think Lakewood is for you.Many people in Lakewood also, commute outrageous distances to live in a community of like minded people.

  8. Some Advice says:
    February 24, 2010 at 10:26 am
    Firstly, it’s not a sad comentary on Lakewood that you feel out of place: Lakewood IS overwhelmingly black hat. I’m sure the first few chassidim that moved in felt akward when they first moved in as well. If people stare, then that’s just impolite, but you ARE different, and Lakewood is an insulated community. That’s just the way it is- nothing personal.
    Also, there are many shuls that would not blink at someone not being a black hatter coming to them, especially on the “other side” of the lake. Try Meor Chaim (corner of Adams and Miller), very nice crowd that won’t stare/bother you. Just don’t talk by davening (which has nothing to do with being yeshivish anyway).
    Question: the same way I wouldn’t move into Deal, since it is predominately a Sephardic community (and I am not), why would you live somewhere that is predominately different than you as well?
    ===========================================
    firstly lakewood is not an insulated community . and NO . HE IS NOT different then u and i . betzelem elokim … a black hat a black jack does not make you different then him . its all shtusim . we wear black because we all want to look a certain way just like a school uniform . its no different . perhaps if you dig deep deep in your soul u will see that you are no diferent then him . different shitos yes different minhagim yes . i dont see you telling briskers that they are different then you because the bruk on pesach or sefardim who eat rice on pesach . plent chashuv sefardim dont wear hats. are they different the you no they are a yid just like you with different shitos

  9. U r looking for a open minded place? Well, we believe we r open minded. Because u have a different world outlook, that doesn’t make us narrow minded.

  10. ITS funny that me and you are exactly opposite what you find as lakewood mailoss i think are chessronoss and what you think are chessronoss i think are mailoss

  11. try davening at BMG the Roshei Yeshiva are very warm and accepting
    Ateres yeshaya Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen very warm and accepting atmosphere
    Rabbi Gissinger’s Shul on Sunset
    very diverse crowd

  12. I would suggest that if you go to any shul week after week, the oddity will wear off and you will become just one of the faces in the crowd – so to speak “a little different but ours”.

  13. come to Kol Shimshon. Look for an older person and ask to learn with you. He will welcome you with open arms. Lakewood is unique because the priority is on Learning Torah. Come to our Shul and be with us.
    Burach Habuh

  14. Dear article writer,
    Please don’t fault the children for looking at you funny. Its no different than how a modern orthodox kid living in a MO neighborhood would look at a chassid in full uniform. In fact the MO kid would likely stare. Anyways, the fact is you if you look different you likely are different and it will be harder to fit in. Lakewood was built around the Yeshiva and the people living there are yeshivish oreos black hat types. If you want to better fit in you have to look the part. It doesn’t mean people don’t like you because of how you dress, its just against the belief system in Lakewood that a ben torah dresses a certain way. Its a very sheltered town. In all honesty a MO person belongs in Lakewood like a Chassid belongs in Long Island.

  15. I’m sorry you have to be treated this way. We are all equals. It doesn’t matter if we are jewish or goy, we all deserve respect and equality. I hope some of you don’t fall from your pedestal.

  16. i once tried to get an amud at a young Israel & was rejected due to my black hat… its not a lack of ahavas yisroel, its just people feel comfortable with the norm in that community. b4 u moved to lakewood you knew its a yeshiva town, & u knew we love all Jews, nonetheless, not always are people in a state of mind to be sensitive & realize that yidishkiet isnt based on what type of yarmulke u wear. & that is true in all communities

  17. As a proud member of the Lakewood community, I must say that I feel embarrassed that you don’t feel comfortable in our shuls. I do acknowledge that you are not making this up, or being over sensitive. If someone is shomer shabos, he is on ‘our side’
    Of the Halacha. Bain Adam lechaveiro is more important than wearing a black hat .
    Suggestion: There are some Rabonim in shuls who are on the friendly side, try to find one that gives a shiur , assist to the shiur, and become part of the scene. People then will come to know and appreciate you for who you are, and not for the material of the pants that you wear

    Much Hatlzlacha

  18. TO #9

    Dress like Goyim?
    Why because someone wears jeans that means they dress like Goyim? That is where the problem starts that you teach your children how YOU think Jews should dress. I have been to Manhattan many times and I see plenty of Goym wearing white shirts and black pans, so maybe you should get a new dress code.

    To the writer of the article you have to learn not to care what people say or do. I have lived in this town for 27 years I haven’t put a hat on in 5 years, and yes I also wear blue jeans. Most of the people here are open minded you have to just find the right crowd of people that you will be comfortable around and then who cares what people think.

    Wishing you much Hatzlach!!

  19. #21

    “In all honesty a MO person belongs in Lakewood like a Chassid belongs in Long Island.”

    Now you are the one that decides where people can and can not live?? Do you think I should stay in Lakewood or not?? I do wear jeans and I bet I lived in Lakewood long before you have even seen the town. Please let me know if I have to move to Long Island or not.

  20. Come and join us at Breakfast & Learn Monday-Thursday morning at
    Yeshiva Mayan Hatorah, 218 Joe Parker Road. The Shiur is given by Rav Simcha Bunim Cohen @ 7:00 AM (upstairs). Some of us wear white shirts, others colored (both with and without stripes or plaids). Some of us wear black slacks, some grey and some jeans! Our yarmulkas are black velvet, satin and knitted.
    Shacharis is @ 6:15 (before the Shiur) and 7:45 (after the Shiur).
    Some of us daven with an “OY”, some with an “OH” and some with an “EE”.
    AND – we all enjoy each others company.

  21. There are many shuls that you’ll be comfortable in. Depends where you are in Lakewood.
    However, do keep in mind that When in Rome do as the Romans. If you live in Lakewood, its your choice to make yourself comfortable by blending in with the crowd. Being ‘meurav im habrios’ is considered a virtue in chaza”l. In your private life you can follow the psokim of the gedolim in the MO camp. I know many fine MO people that when they come to Yeshivisher places they will wear a hat, in deference to the minhag hamokom.

  22. MO / Z – we all want to daven with you and you are welcome anywhere. Just remember the old adage, When in Rome, do as the Romans do, and you will be fine. If it was good enough for the Yevanim who came as outsiders to Rome, Kal Vachomer that it wil be a good solution for you.

  23. We took our kids to the aquarium on sukkos, and there was an Amish family standing opposite our family. And you know what? There kids were staring at us, and our kids were staring at them, I am sure if we would spend a few days together, our kids would have ended up playing together. Welcome to life and its diversities.

  24. I think the kehillah has an achrayus to open and fund a modern school. there is a growing crowd of modern orthadox to very bal habatish with TV and everyone in between. We must have Ahavat yisrael and ahavet eretz yisrael in Lakewood too. we must teach our children to be more open minded. we must not let anyone drink alcohol on purim (or pesach for that matter). And if you tap a MO car PAY!. A freilichen purim!

  25. I am embarrased at this, I personally would welcome you in any shul i am in, what area of lakewood are you in? i can easily arrange for a place nearby to make you feel comfortable

  26. I feel the same way when I visit my shver in Teaneck. Any advice for a place wher I can daven there. I actually have had uncomfortable instances when people came over and began berating me for all of the world’s problems because I wear a black hat.

  27. We haven’t learned anything from the golus. For those of you who have a brother, sister, uncle, aunt, cousin….who is more modern do you snob them out too or do you love them despite their differences? I think this starts with proper education of the kids. If our children are taught to respect others EVEN GOYIM (gasp) then as adults they will respect others differences and accept those who may be a little different.

  28. To #9

    You are making a huge mistake if you are teaching your children to trust Jews that wear black hats, and black and white clothes, and be suspicious of other Jews. Uniforms like that are easy to put on, but it does not guarantee that they are normal and trusting people. Parents must teach children to judge individuals from the inside, and not be fooled by outer appearance. I have heard toooooo many horrendous stories of child abuse because of this perception.

  29. please don’t judge us by our clothing that we wear . you are more than welcome in any shul here . you are our brother . I am very proud of the ahavas yisroel of the commenters here . also fyi, cong sons of israel is renown for welcoming everyone. I never met someone who didn’t feel comfortable there . please don’t judge the people just because they are wearing a black hat . once you get to know them you’ll love em . also I bet if you posted an email for a chavrusa , you get hundreds of offers. lakewood is a makom torah , but please don’t ask us to change our clothing , and accept us for who we are .

  30. I am the writer of this letter. Thanks for all the responses–even the nasty ones which help me prove my point.

    Lakewood is indeed a very diverse community. Some people are here for business, others to learn and so on and so forth. If I choose to live here for whatever reason (and I do have a reason), I will continue to do so.

    I am not expecting anybody to change their clothing or hashkafa because of me, in fact I appreciate everyone the way they are. It is only fair that I expect other people to have the same attitude towards me.

    I don’t remember “ahavas yisroel” being a conservative movement catchphrase. I am a frum person, I follow halacha to the letter, I learn every day but guess what I have different hashkafos when it comes to the secular world or Israel, and I also dress differently.

    I’ve been to Teaneck many times and there PLENTY of black hat people there and i’ve never seen any of them being bothered by anyone. In fact I used to daven in a shul where the Rabbi wore a black hat and looked pretty much indistinguishable from a random Lakewood person.

  31. I’m not sure if you’re a Lakewood native or not. I had a similar problem to yours when I relocated here, from an entirely MO neighborhood with an entirely MO upbringing. I had to learn a few of the local nuances and had to buy some new suits and a hat for Shabbos, but after that I was good to go anywhere in town. It is very easy to blend in. Unless you WANT to stand out, look different, be stared at, and complain about, it’s very simple and very easy. You can retain the significant parts of your uniqueness, I discovered, while giving in on the insignificant issue of dress.

  32. #44 D.S.–If one’s dress is insignificant then why is clothing of such cardinal significance in this community to the point that one must change the way he/she dresses so that he/she should not “stand out, look different, be stared at, and complain about”? Is wearing a pair of jeans for a yehudi like walking around sans kippah?

  33. I used to visit some relatives in Monroe and the Yiddish speaking kids thought I wasn’t Jewish. However if I as a woman would go to a community that was exclusively tichel wearing, no sheitels allowed, I wouldn’t wear my sheitel there either. I think if you’re in the minority you should try to fit in and blend with the community. however in Lakewood I think there are many no hatters, so I don’t see why you feel uncomfortable here. I do think clothes reflect who you are and if someone dresses too casually, like wearing jeans and t shirts all the time (not just for dirty work, or play) then he doesn’t have self respect. If a person is created b’zelem Elokim, he/she should dress the part and dress like a gentleman or a lady. When I see how most of the goyim dress, sloppy, t shirts, ragged jeans, I am glad shelo osani goy.

  34. Chazal in Megillah Esther teaches us not to judge others. In today’s world Rabbi Akiva could never get a shiddach because he would be judged by who was then, and not who he became. There are wonderful people out there who may not wear a black hat, but have impeccable midos. Stop judging others by trivial stereotypes.

  35. When people are staring at you or judging you because of your clothing, it doesn’t mean they think you are bad, They ‘re just looking because you’re different. In fact, in your case, the clothing do show that you have different hashkofos (you mentioned Zionism) from the Yeshivish community. That doesn’t make you bad, but you are recognizably different and the clothing do show something.
    Having said that, # 46, you are an embarassment. Casual clothing means lack of self respect?!? That’s ridiculous! It’s just a lack of formality, which some Yeshiva people feel a Ben Torah should have.
    Don’t exagerate to the point of sounding stupid.

  36. Jeans are a no-no in Lakewood! I remember the days walking into the batei midrashim wearing a blue button-down shirt, or something that wasn’t quite white. People stared at me sometimes to the point that I really felt like walking out. The year I spent there was both a positive and frustrating experience as a ba’al teshuva.

  37. As I read all the comments, it’s interesting to see different points of view. Some understand adn can sympathize with the individual and others feel it’s necessary for him to conform or ‘when in Rome do as the Romans’. I’ve lived in Lakewood for several years and have been living out of town for the past few years now adn I can honestly say, I understand what this person is saying. Lakewood is a town that offers great opportunity for frum families within the community. There are wonderful people, rabbonim and some instituitoins. However, I do know that it is not a city that is overly welcoming in the school aspect in accepting yidden from different backgrounds or families that may have children that are not the run of the mill. Everyone must be the cut the same or else one is not solely accepted. What are we teaching teh children? I think with teh assistance of local Rabbanim and guidance of parents we can teach our children and community members to have ahavas yisroel and learn how to accept, respect others that dress differently than we do. I agree wtih those that say you should not care what others think of you and give yourself a chance to meet other Rabbis or go to other Shuls where you can integrate yourself amongst them without changing yourself.
    In fact, you may think that a lot of those individuals do not understand where you came from because no one taught them the abc’s of dealing with Jews that are different than them. You may take it as an opportunity somehow to show them your true colors in accepting their ignorance and be open to answering their questions about yourself. The kiruv world focus’ on that and most of lakewood is not experienced in that area at all. Try to be open minded to where they came from and by your example they will learn to accept you for who you are. Although, there will always be several that can see past their own 2 feet, the entire world is made up of all sorts of people. It’s each person’s responsibility to learn how to deal with every challenge, nisayon that comes our way.
    If you continue to stay in lakewood, then seek out those many special people there that will understand and welcome you and not worry about the others. IF not, there are great out of town communities that are known for it’s warmth and you would most definitely not feel out of place. I happen to live in one of them and it’s been a wonderful experience so far.
    PS-Rabbi Gissinger or Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen is a good place to start in seeking advice and meeting the right people.

    much hatzlacha!

  38. Minyan shelanu on rt 88 is the best place in the world its ran under the leadership of rabbi chaim abadi shlita you’ll feel the most comfortable there peaple dress however they like and noone says a thing or looks at u diffrently they got a whole program there its great. Come by and check it out. P.s. Every jew is welcomed there

  39. I see most people answered very nicely and all are really welcoming, inviting and displayed much ahavas yisroel. I too have ahavas yisroel for you and every jew.I just have a question. Why don’t you want to put on a black hat black pants and a white shirt? How can it hurt you? Does it make you feel different or uncomfortable? Does it stop you from feeling comfortable at certain venues? Sometimes I get back the answer, ” no none of the above its just not me.” Well, why is it just not you. If you say its not how I grew up then again why isn’t it a wanted step for you to make yourself look like an obviously orthodox jew.The main point of Lo shinui es malbusham was that they had a very different dress code. What’s stopping you from wanting to dress like Reb Moshe Feinstein did preytell? By the way I love you and want us all to go together to Eretz Yisroel soon no matter what you are wearing I just would like to get to the heart of the matter.

  40. There is not a single shul in lakewood(or elsewhere) that will not accept and welcome every yid that walks in. Some may insist on certain levush while davening for the amud or getting an aliyah, but that is for kavod hatzibur and respect for that shuls minhagim.i.e. A gartel in satmar or a talis in bruers. Point is that if someone chas vishalom looks at you it is not an immediate statement of non acceptance,rather mild curiosity. Kids say silly things, deal with it.

  41. How come nobody is quick to judge this guy, but 70 girls are still out of Bais Yaakov Elementary because other schools are judging their families, and NOT accepting any of them. Acceptance of everyone??? I think NOT. Such phony baloneys. You only want what is like YOU.

  42. I am not about to change my clothes because I think it’s disingenuous for me to do so. I am not about to change my customs and hashkafos just to “fit in”. As far as “jewish clothing” is concerned, I personally don’t see how a white shirt, black pants, and a fedora hat is anymore Jewish than what I wear. Yeah, it was accepted as a Jewish levush by the Yeshivish community but as someone else pointed out here, this also emanates from a goyishe mode of dress and there are still many non-jews who dress like that as well.

  43. When I was in Israel, there was this craze among the Jewish settlers in Yesha of wearing a “beged yehudi”, basically it’s the mode of dress that our ancestors once wore in ancient Judea. Funny thing is, if I wore THAT, I wouldn’t just be stared at, I’d be followed and photographed.

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