By Julia Orellana-Funes
BROOKLYN, New York — For Yonitan Katz, hipsters moving into Borough Park began to raise contention between them and his community. So what did a Chassidic Jew and hipster have in common that could unite everyone and begin to create commonality? Beards.
Until Katz, a rabbi and lover of dad jokes, opened his community and synagogue for tours, it was unheard of. In fact, they are the only group of Chassidic Jews to do so–and the largest outside of Israel. Katz and his hipsters friends lovingly called their new club for questions and open discourse Unite The Beard.
“When we are open with each other, that creates closeness. That comes from God,” Katz explained. “God wasn’t missing a ‘what,’, He was missing a ‘who.’. He created 8 billion people so that we could have a connection.”
The club became wildly successful and has since helped everyone grow closer. It dispelled growing misunderstandings on both sides and helped Jew and hipster find common ground to build a rich friendship from. Since the founding of their club, the Chassidic Jews have gone on to become a powerful example of fellowshipping that other neighborhoods have tried to follow.
Mayer Freeman, Katz’s brother in law and a Rabbi himself, said, “If you exist, then your value is immeasurable. Loving another human being is the foundation of what we are doing here.”
Katz, along with his friends and family, are fully attuned to the growing contention in the world and strive to share their beliefs with others to help people find new perspectives and ways of looking at each other.
“Unite The Beard” has since gone on to involve outsiders, including creating a popular tour that brings outsiders into the Crown Heights Chassidic community of those who adhere to Chabad way of life. That includesding numerous groups of students from Brigham Young University.
Colby Beckstead, a BYU student said, “I didn’t know much about their religion, but when you meet with them and understand their lives better, you can see their similarities rather than just noting all the superficial differences.”Along with going to the Freemanhome and learning about kosher kitchens and how food needs to be prepared, the tour includes visiting a wig shop and hat store to learn more about modesty for men and women, and ceremonial clothing in order for visitors to deepen their understanding of the people and their religion.
Categories: New York, Study Abroad Themes