I am on vacation in New York and whenever I visit New York I try to make time to visit my favorite Jewish book store, Biegeleisen. You see, I am a seforim junkie and I must get my fix every year. To my mind there is no better dealer that the good people of Biegeleisen.
WARNING: Do not confuse Biegeleisen with a Judaica store for there are no fancy havdallah sets, no cookbooks and no jewish music for sale there. Beigeleisen is seforim only (almost all hebrew with a few englsih books floating around).
The store is located in Borough Park, Brooklyn, a well known chareidi community. The streets are lined with kosher food stores, clothing stores for women with clothes that meet the modesty standards of that community and many yeshivot and shteibels (small one room synagogues).
Sometime visiting communities like Borough Park makes me feel like I am on a different planet. The ways and customs of that place are so different in so many fundamentally important ways from those that I and my community practice. I have often felt bad about this reality and naively hoped that it could be different. Sort of my own little, “can’t we all just get along” dream.
For some reason this year’s pilgrimage to my seforim mecca left me feeling differently. This year I had the luxury of visiting the store on may own. Translated, this means that I could spend as much time there as I wanted. My unrestricted time also allowed me to talk to the store keeper about what was new in the Jewish book world. I also spent time “talking seforim” with some of the other shoppers.
No doubt I was the only one there wearing crocks, the only only there without a beard and the only one not in “yeshivish” uniform (dark pants, white shirt). These distinctions were obvious; what was also obvious was our shared love of Torah and interest in the latest and greatest in seforim publishing.
We also spoke about our various communities and I tutored them on the nuances and unique aspects of living in an Orthodox community outside of the main Jewish centers of population
To be sure, these conversations did not breach some of the key issues that separate Modern Orthodoxy from Chareidi Orthodoxy, and I am sure that there is much that we would have disagreed about. However, I did leave feeling that the others in that store were my brothers (and sisters..yes, there were even some women in the store, a rare occurrence there) and that there are issues that we can connect and agree on.
This encounter reminded me of something very important for us Modern Orthodox jews to remember. We are quick to try and find common ground with those to our left as we try to build cross denominational relationships. We sit on boards of rabbis, join in panel discussions and often go out of our way to show how respectful we are to reform and conservative Judaism and Jews. We should be expending the same efforts and energy toward creating bonds of kinship with those on our right.
Good stuff to think about during the three weeks….