The Amish get a hamish welcome

Dozens of Amish residents tour Hasidic neighborhood in Brooklyn's Crown Heights to learn more about their culture.

April 1, 2009 11:00
2 minute read.
The Amish get a hamish welcome

amish haredi 248 ap. (photo credit: AP)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

The city's ultra-Orthodox Jews took the Pennsylvania Amish on a walking tour of their world Tuesday, saying their communities are naturally drawn to each other with a commitment to simpler lifestyles. Dozens of Amish residents from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, toured a Hasidic neighborhood in Brooklyn's Crown Heights to learn more about their culture. Rabbi Beryl Epstein called the experience "living Judaism." "It's reinforcing to the Amish community to see us Jews living the way the Bible says Jews are supposed to live, and have lived since the time of Moses and Abraham," said Yisroel Ber Kaplan, program director for the Chassidic Discovery Center in Brooklyn. "The Amish are also living their lives as the Bible speaks to them." The neighborhood is home to an ultra-Orthodox Lubavitcher sect born about 200 years ago in Russia. Today's Lubavitchers wear the black hats and beards of their 18th-century forebears, speak Yiddish and refrain from using electricity or driving cars on Shabbat, wheras the Amish get around in a horse and buggy, living off the land. However, both groups use one modern amenity - cell phones - which kept ringing as they wandered through Crown Heights. And the Hasids ironically operate the famed B&H electronics retail store in Manhattan that serves customers from around the world. At a workshop where a young man was touching up a Torah, a scroll of the holiest Jewish writings, Epstein told the group how a Jew in wartime Germany had rescued the sacred scroll by wrapping it around his midriff under his clothes as he fled to safety. The Amish listened, commenting to one another in Pennsylvania Dutch, a dialect of the German of their ancestors. When Epstein, a native of Chattanooga, Tenn., had first greeted the Amish with the Yiddish "Zei gazunt!" - "be healthy" - they understood. After all, the expression is derived from the German phrase "sei gesund." As the two groups walked side by side on Brooklyn streets, Crown Heights residents did double-takes; the Amish could be mistaken for Lubavitchers at a quick glance. But their hats are more square and their ruddy complexions from working outdoors contrast with the pale faces of the studious, urban Lubavitchers. Hasidic children in Crown Heights begin their formal schooling at age 3, and by age 5 are studying many hours a day. At the headquarters on Brooklyn's Eastern Parkway each day, dozens of men gather to pore over religious books, with little boys dashing around as their fathers fervently debate fine points of the texts - sometimes sounding more like spirited poker players than religious faithful. John Lapp and his wife, Priscilla, brought their three children on the tour. John Lapp said the between to the communities might be more surface than substance. "In some things we are alike, like our clothing and our traditional beliefs," he said. Priscilla Lapp added, "And in some things we are not. The biggest thing is that Jesus is our savior." The groups also toured a Jewish library and a "matzo factory," where round, unleavened bread was being made for the Passover holiday. There, a cross-cultural misunderstanding caused one of the Jewish men to look at the Amish, and ask, repeatedly, "Are you from Uzbekistan?" An Amish man, also confused, asked, "Afghanistan?" Finally, as they were leaving, another Amish man announced to the matzo-makers: "We're from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania!"

Related Content

Joan Rivers
August 28, 2014
Joan Rivers rushed to hospital following throat surgery