Monday, December 13, 2010

Boro Park

I'm from Boro Park.

I love it here.

It's where I grew up, where I got married, and where I'm raising my children.

It's where I chose to raise my children.

I know all the stereotypes. Boro Parkers are loud and aggressive.  They are impolite and inconsiderate. They are unfriendly and rude and arrogant.

And they do not say "Good Shabbos".

True, the chesed here is unparalleled. Even the staunchest out-of-towners would grudgingly admit to that. But that doesn't really say anything about Boro Parkers. It doesn't say anything about the individuals. Chesed, after all, does not equal middos. Chesed doesn't compensate for the lack of civility, the offensive behavior and the rudeness. Right?

I know a very different Boro Park.

It's a lot of people living in a small place. It's crowded. And rushed. It's New York. People here think and behave a bit faster than they do in more laid back areas.

But I know the people. I know the individuals.

I know the woman who noticed when my little boy seemed lost. I know how she didn't wait for him to reach out for she understood that he was too proud to admit he couldn't find his way home...and how she helped him out, with his dignity intact.

I know the man who, while walking home from shul, met a guest of ours who couldn't find our house. I know how he wasn't able to help him, but he invited him to eat with his family instead.

I know my son who noticed the elderly man living near his yeshiva who likes to come daven with the yeshiva's minyan. I know how my son goes to this man's house 3 times every Shabbos to walk him to the yeshiva. I know how he helps him to his place and makes sure he's comfortable and has everything he needs.

I know the woman who knocked on my car window asking if I was going in her direction. I wasn't, but I took her there anyway. I know how thankful she though I drove her across the country instead of just four blocks.

I know the boys who wait at street corners in the cold, hoping for a ride. And I know the people who stop to offer it to them.

I know hundreds of these people. Boro Parkers...all of them.

If you ask us for directions, we won't bond with you. We may not ask you where you're from or why you're here. But we'll stop what we're doing and help you out.

We've gotten a bad rap. And people come here with an opinion...a preconceived notion.

If you expect people to be rude, you will see only rude people. But if you expect people to be nice, you will notice them, too.

Come to Boro Park with a more open mind. Expect people to be nice, patient and caring about others. See what happens. And let me know.

Oh...and say "Good Shabbos".

To quote Wayne Dyer, "If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change".


  1. I admit, I'm one of those that believe(d) the stereotype about Boro Parkers. Having read this, I thought of different Boro Parkers I've come across, and they were really nice, for the most part. I mean, c'mon, just look at you! You're the best example for how nice Boro Parkers can be :-). And that example you gave involving your son is really impressive. Not surprising, being that he has an excellent role model.

    May you continue to see loads of nachas from your "Boro Park" children :-).

  2. So true. Every word of what you wrote.

    I also grew up in Boro Park. My mother always taught us to say "Good Shabbos" to people - even strangers, which I still do. I love getting the reaction of Do I know you?! from people!

    So maybe Boro Park is not like Out of Town but it still has it's good points - and the amount of chessed that people will do for others and the things they do to go out of their way to help makes one marvel and say, "Mi K'amcha Yisroel"!

  3. SIR...

    That's really sweet :).
    But my point is, you are able to say that about me because you got to "know" me. You gave me a chance without the preconceived notions. Get to know other BP'ers and you may feel the same way about them.


    I think that's one thing that's changed over the years. Years ago, when someone would say "Good Shabbos", my kids would look a bit surprised and ask if I knew her. I'd respond to the "Good Shabbos", of course, but I always assumed she was an out-of-towner. It's very different today. It's not that unusual to hear "Good Shabbos" from Boro Parkers, and my kids are no longer surprised.

  4. All right Mystery, I'll begrudgingly attempt to re calibrate my biases, and give it a fresh look.

    I love your post, it's honest and fair. My perspective is not from an outsider. I'm a lifelong Boro Parker, but sometimes feel like I live in the twilight zone. Yes, the chessed is heartwarming, and simply amazing. It's the attitude that gets to me. The drivers can be so selfish, it's almost comical. I once did a little test, and counted on one intersection, almost HALF the people did not use the turn signal. And perhaps you see the beauty in the way "boys wait at street corners, hoping for a ride" because you are a better person than I. I don't see them "waiting", I see them walking into the street and stepping up to the driver and asking. I recall the days of my childhood, when I was 12, 13. I'd walk all the way to school in the teeth clattering cold. From 18th to 13th Avenue. Would I ever DREAM of walking up to a car right in the middle of the street asking for a ride? I hope I'm not coming across like a sour Grinch, but I do think it reflects the way attitudes have changed over time. And don't get me started on the way some women act in stores, and the way the stores treat their costumers. I guess it's a "chicken or the egg" question, but the end result is a lower standard of discourse.

    Having said all that, it's nice to read a more noble perspective, and I will endeavor to see the beauty inherent in where I live, as it definitely lends itself to a more positive existence!

  5. good post!
    i am an Out of Towner, (only because i'm not from the tri-state area, of course) but my parents are both Brooklyn bred. to me, Boro Park was the home of bubbys, nosy aunts and cousins who made fun of the way i talked.
    i grew up thinking that Boro Park was full of stereotypical people and vowed never to align myself with them, even though i spent every summer with plenty of nice boro parkers...i really was a die-hard out of towner.
    anyway, the end result was that i met my husband in israel and although he's boro park all the way and speaks like an italian mobster, i was smitten.
    ein ma la'asot.
    and btw - my husband has impeccable manners and was raised to be such a kind, attentive person that i can only bow my head in shame at my insistence that Boro Park is a bad breed.

  6. MW, I don't know about not having preconceived notions before I got to know you. I had those notions, I just chose to ignore them and get to know you better. And am I ever glad that I did!

  7. Bernie...

    Ok..I hear what you're saying. I get pretty frustrated with drivers who stop right in the middle of the street to unload when they could just as easily have pulled over and let cars behind them pass. It's selfish....but I'm still not going to say that that's BP. I don't do it, and I'm sure most BP'ers don't. But there are so many cars, if a small percentage do it, that's a lot of cars.
    I never saw the boys waiting for rides in that way. Maybe you're right. My son is one of those boys trying to get a ride, and I don't know if he does it the way you describe. But this is the same kid who helps the old man in maybe you do need to look at it a little differently...


    So...I would like to suggest that most BP'ers are more like your husband than the stereotype. There are plenty who aren't, but there are bad apples everywhere. It's not limited to BP.
    On Friday, I was walking into the bank while a woman was trying to get out. She was struggling with her carriage, her phone propped between her shoulder and her ear, deep in conversation. So I held the door open for her, and she walked out, as though I was there just to hold doors open. (I did say 'you're welcome' :).) I was annoyed at first, but this was just after I wrote this post, and I took the time to rethink it. I don't think she meant to be rude, but there are rude people everywhere. They are the minority. I've held open countless doors, and for the most part, people are polite.
    These are the people who perpetuate the stereotype. These are the people who are noticed. Not the nice ones, like your husband.


    Thank you for giving me that chance....for being able to see past the stereotype. :)

  8. Interestingly enough..
    I was just reading a similar exchange on a travel website about Israelis.
    The same back and forth about how rude they are..but ultimately they're the ones you'd want to be with when you're in a bad situations..unlike polite Europeans who don't really care about you. it possible to have both?

  9. There are many things I have always liked about Boro park.....besides for the loads of banks and pizza shops that line 13th Avenue : )
    When it comes down to it, most boro parkers will help another Jew in need. The level of chesed in that community is hard to match.

  10. DOL...

    I think Israeli rudeness is very different. Somehow people not only tolerate it, but see it almost as endearing, in a way. BP'ers, on the other hand, are seen as just plain the point where many out of towners dread visiting and living here would be their worst nightmare.


    Everyone agrees about the chesed here, I think. My point was that it's not just the organized chesed that is so amazing. It's the individual people who are really nice.
    And..I don't know about the pizza shops, but the amount of banks on 13th Avenue is getting ridiculous...