A Morning in Hasidic Jewish WilliamsburgMarch 20, 2012 3:06 pm
Back in January I decided to push my luck and try taking some pictures in the Jewish neighborhood of Williamsburg. They are known for being such an insular and private community and that’s why I’ve always found them so fascinating. I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy morning and that I surely wouldn’t be able to bring any of my lights. So I set out on my bike with the intent of doing this as photojournalist for a change. At the beginning I had to stay back from the action and shoot from afar because people were so opposed to me taking their pictures.
After a discouraging 2 hours I was approached by the 10th person wondering what I was doing. The previous 9 were not very accepting and I didn’t feel like explaining myself again. I didn’t have much of a choice and I’m glad because he was so friendly and helpful. After telling him I was taking pictures of the neighborhood his first response was “I bet you’ve been having a rough go of it.” I laughed and said he was right. He responded by saying “Go across the street to that bookstore. Buy a Yarmulke for $4 and wear it. You’ll have a lot better luck and you’ll probably even be able to go inside the synagogue.” So I did just that.
I don’t think the more welcoming response was based on discrimination as much as trust. I’ve spoken with some Orthodox Jewish people and they say their private nature stems from the fact that they’ve had some bad luck in the past 2000 years.
By no means are these pictures a definitive representation of the neighborhood. This could never be achieved in 5 hours. But it’s what I saw on that balmy January morning.