Hasidic People: A Place in the New World

By Jerome R. Mintz | Go to book overview

19 Satmar's Kiryas Joel

The New Settlement

In the early 1970s, more than a decade after the establishment of New Square, the Satmar Hasidim moved to create a similar suburban community. The older Satmar Rebbe had long harbored a dream of founding a community a safe distance from the city which would be governed by ultra-Orthodox religious tenets. The isolated and remote location strengthened by the invisible barriers of culture and language would shield residents from outside forces. In this traditional environment the children would grow up safe from drugs and crime and free of heretical influences. There were equally compelling practical reasons for founding a satellite community. Satmar's growing population could no longer be contained in Williamsburg. Efforts to create new housing in the neighborhood had been stymied, and they were in desperate need of room for their community to expand.

As with New Square they sought land within commuting distance of the city and with the possibility of developing light industry nearby. Over the course of time the community discreetly purchased property fifty miles from New York City in Monroe township in Orange County, a region of heavily wooded, rolling hills. Once both a farming and vacation area (much of the land had been the private estate of W Averell Harriman), in recent years it had become more heavily populated by year- round suburbanites, in great measure because of the development of the New York State Thruway. It still required a formidable drive of more than an hour to reach New York City, and the Satmar leadership hoped that plants would open in the surrounding area and provide employment for the settlers. 1

The Satmar community contracted for the construction of twenty-five single-family houses and eighty garden apartments. The housing was especially designed for Hasidic living, with twin kitchen sinks and stoves to ensure separation of meat and dairy foods. Construction was still under

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