Hasidic People: A Place in the New World

By Jerome R. Mintz | Go to book overview

18
New Square: Shtetl and Suburb

New Square

Soon after their arrival in the United States, Hasidim in every court considered how they might best protect themselves and their children from dangers to their Orthodox way of life. Initially all were concerned with strengthening the neighborhood communities, but as they became more familiar with the diversity of the new environment, some looked to the rural areas outside the city as the best buffer against outside influences. In the rural areas, some reasoned, they could establish a self-governing Torah-true community. Television, with its promotion of romantic and sexual illusions, could be completely eliminated, along with other blatant impieties, such as the sight of automobiles desecrating the Shabbes. The plan stirred nostalgia for the Old World shtetl. The old rhythm of religious life would be restored: adults would work and pray; children would study and then marry and settle near their parents. As their families increased the yeshivah would grow and become the center of their lives.

In 1954, after considerable discussion and research, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Twersky, the Skverer Rebbe, and a small group of his followers purchased 130 acres of a former dairy farm two miles from Spring Valley, New York. Many of these first settlers were survivors of the death camps; a few were American-born Hasidim. None had previously been followers of the Skverer Rebbe, and for that matter some had not been attached to any other Rebbe. 1 The new immigrants who had lost their families and the Americans searching for a spiritual refuge sought to establish new ties that would restore their past and reassure them concerning the future. They were united in the dream of the new community and in their faith in the sincerity and piety of the Skverer Rebbe. The settlement was to be called New Square after the Ukrainian town of Skvira where the Rebbe had once had his court.

The richly wooded countryside along Route 45 with its lush stands of

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