Satmar Jews In Brooklyn Upset By Tourist Stares And Photos, Especially On Shabbat

A view of the Satmar community in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Brooklyn – The Chassidic Satmar community in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., is tired of tourists treating them like “animals” in a zoo by flocking to their communities to take pictures of them, the New York Post reported.

“People snap pictures of you like you’re on some sort of display—like you’re in a zoo. We are people, not animals to be photographed,” said Chaim, 42, from the Satmar community.

Sightseeing groups head into Williamsburg and the nearby neighborhood of Crown Heights, home of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, several times a week.

In fact, three bus companies offer “contrast” tours of various cultural communities across the boroughs. The tours have been taking place for years, though Max Hauer, 41, said “lately, they’re out there every day by the hundreds, and it’s become a ‘must see’ for tourists.” He credits the recent cultural obsession with Orthodox Judaism to Netflix’s documentary “One of Us” and the Israeli cable-TV series “Shtisel.”

The tours also boost outdated stereotypes about the ultra-Orthodox community, which upsets locals.

Hauer said “I’ve tried to engage with these visitors, but they aren’t interested to learn more about us. They see me as a freak. They see us as people from another world, [and] if you’re not seen as human, then they think it’s OK to take photos and stare.”

Both Jewish communities date back to Eastern European shtetl life and the roots of Chassidism.

Hauer is often photographed without his consent and said tourists get most excited coming to the community on Saturdays, on Shabbat, to see local men wear large fur hats called shtreimels.

“Whenever I go to synagogue … they’ll all start snapping photos in front of my face,” he said.


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    • He tried to behave and be curtious. But they refuse to engage. I think its a form of discrimination and should be considered a hate crime. there should be a law banning pics of any individuals unless they consent or are a public figure. Its intrusive of ones privacy rights. Imagine you walked into a muslim hood and took pics of them dressed in hijabs during mossque prayers. This needs to stop and be banned,

      • No one has the right to privacy in public space. So stopping photography on the streets for any reason is illegal and is and act protected by the Constitution of New York and The Constitution Of the United States. Wanting something different in Un-American.

  1. I agree 100% with Archy; I wouldn’t like anybody shoving a camera in my face, and treating me that way. Would those idiotic tourists also do that in Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant? If so, they would get the you know what kicked out of them, by the local population. Incidentally, if they tried that in Mea Shearim, I don’t think that they would survive, as that community would throw rocks at them, and beat them.

  2. The best thing would be if they did that to somebody who speaks English very very very well WITHOUT THE CHASIDISHE LISP and talk to them in a language they can understand.

    i’ll be like a scene out of The Frisco Kid, “Pardon me, but dost thou speak English?”

    • The Amish want it . We don’t . Any Amish that doesn’t want a pic should have a right to that . I think it’s a basic human right to not want your pic sprawled all over social media unless you asked for it .

      • The Amish profit off their tourism and only get photographed when they give permission. Perhaps the Hasidim should conduct their own tours and sell gefilte fish and homemade rugelach to tourists.

  3. Unfortunately Chassidim are so alienated from everyday American people outside of their insular communities, that they are considered as ‘unusual’. This isolation leads to ‘otherness’ and then hate. Its also understood that Chassidim feel superior to other Yidden and of course, to goyim. Oy.

    • Yes they are unusual . So why does that give a stranger the right to take pics and blast them on social media ? I as a human should have a basic right to be unusual not have my pic blasted .

      Yes chasdim and all Jews are better than goyim. It’s part of being Jewish and we are proud of it . That’s why we say shlo asani goy

    • Alienated? Just pay a visit to B&H.
      Insular? Perhaps. Is that a crime?
      Just because people in America CAN assimilate, does not mean they MUST assimilate, just to appease some very small-minded people.

  4. We don’t need this tourism in Williamsburg it became out of hand, and for those who don’t live here please don’t comment. Its ugly not comfortable and very well said we are not Animal. This busses has to STOP one way or the other. And finally someone wrote in the NYP it’s not enough.

    • Doesn’t matter the distance. Cameras can zoom in. Organized tours to residential neighborhoods should be banned, unless those living in those neighborhoods agree to it. PERIOD!!

  5. I happen to live in the ‘insular’ Williamsburg community and proud of it.
    To all you out there hating chasidim, I dont wish your stuck in a few foot of snow in Harlem but in Williamsburg where we took the driver to our home and gave him all delicacies and a bed to sleep. So much for being a “insular chasid”. So in our “insular” community we do chesed and care for “goyim” too.
    These folks are a different story. They land in the middle of nowhere, on Shabos and are free to punch their cameras into men with prayer shawls. For all intents and purposes, I just watched one of them, happened to be a woman, from a very up close angleshooting a photo of a man from a hugongous camera. The guy said nothing and peacefully walked away. I was stunned. To me it was enfringement of basic humanity.
    So instead of bashing Chasidim, I wonder how you would like it. Its horrible and theyre not stopping.

  6. In mesh shearim they are smart. They make use of tourism by having shops of Judaica type things on sale. If Chasidim of Willy would be smart they would open a block with a row of tourism stores. Some tourist may be secular Jews who could be drawn closer to yiddishkeit. Tourism is a gold mine. And this baloney that Chasidim don’t need the money is untrue. The Amish don’t need the money as they own farms and breed horses. Chasidim need money badly. Most are poor. Use tourism as an income. It’s easy to do.

    • Yours is a really offensive comment, though I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you are completely uneducated as to the issue involved.

      Many frum Jews live in communities without an eruv, and so are prohibited from carrying their tallisim on Shabbos. So they wear them outside, which is permitted.

      If this offends you…then YOU move…to Paris or some other place where it is simply not safe for a Jew to walk in the street with a tallis on.

        • “…like all modern orthodox do when no eruv exists…” is an unsupported conclusion, as I know “modern Orthodox” who wear their tallisim to shul. In addition, you show a shameful lack of respect for a practice that is age old and followed by many Yidden. If it embarrasses you…that’s your problem.

  7. All around, the most ridiculous and silly series of posts I’ve seen here in a long time.

    We take pride in our differences and in our dress…and we live in a free country where showing our outward differences is safe generally and in most places. another side of the same coin is that in this free country others are free to be intrigued by us and are free to come take pictures of us.

    So what in HaShem’s name is the Problem?!

  8. A bunch of foolish statements. Unfortunately, it’s a problem without a solution. If people are rude & clueless, there’s not much that can be done. Does anyone know the % of tourists that are from the United States & how many are foreigners? Only think that I can think of is that brochures should be mandatory on these tours, describing the Chassidic way of life; & explaining how rude & offensive it is to do what they’re doing to the residents.

    • Why do you say that there is no solution? The homeowners and business owners/TAX PAYERS that are in those areas have more rights to a disturbing situation than tour bus companies dropping off people invading their lives and are a nuisance.


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