Last Night in the Ghetto

I spent last evening in Boro Park at a giant rally for Sholom Rubashkin. It always feels like stepping into another century in that part of Brooklyn but last night with the thousands of black hats thronging around me in a hot wedding hall and the sound of mournful singing every few minutes, it was stifling. The speeches were all in Yiddish and every single one ended with a bout of ecstatic crying.

Outside in the street, a few thousands more milled around and everyone seemed to want the chance to pour their emotions out to a journalist – or get their name in the paper.

By far the funniest comment was from a tall, red-bearded Chasid named Mordy who nearly knocked me over with his passion. “This is just like Dreyfus!” he yelled in his Yiddish accent. “J’accuse!”

The photographer with me was a woman and she wasn’t allowed to enter the hall or, really, stand anywhere near the building. All the women were relegated across the street and then, when the crowd of men grew, pushed even further to the next block. When she tried to venture over toward the men to get a better shot, someone pointed a finger at her.

“Watch your modesty,” he told her. “You know it’s not Crown Heights here!”

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