Sunday, December 11, 2005

Spring Valley 4 Ever

Okay, I admit it.

For the first half-decade or so of my life I lived in Spring Valley, NY.

Since I left, Spring Valley has become swallowed up by Monsey, so all the Jews who live there just simply say they're from Monsey — similar to how many Jews in Sheepshead Bay, Midwood, and Marine Park associate themselves with Greater Jewish Flatbush. However, Spring Valley also seems to have some kind of ghetto reputation. That's 'ghetto' as in gangsta rap, not ghetto as in golem of Prague. Which makes the Jews of Spring Valley even more averse to identifying themselves as Spring Valleyites. When I went downtown to catch the bus back to NYC, though, it didn't look like such a bad area. I don't know what they're so scared of.

Anyway, this past Shabbos I went back up to visit "My Progressively More Yeshivish Friend" (who needs a better pseudonym) at the Ohr Somayach yeshiva in Greater Jewish Monsey Spring Valley.

I took the Monsey Bus up on Thursday night, which was an... interesting... experience. It had a mehhitza. A mehhitza! On a bus! The mehhitza was hung vertically down the aisle, which was somewhat annoying due to the way it got in the way when anyone was trying to walk up or down the aisle. I guess they knew better than to stick all the women in the back of the bus, since then Rosa Parks zç"l would come back to kick all their butts. There were many people on the men's side, and very few people on the women's side. So I sat on the "wrong" side of the mehhitza, in the back, and no one said a word.

Unfortunately, I got up there too late to attend RYG"B's class, and so I just hung out in MPMYF— henceforth to be known as Ághám's room, with him and his roommates, and then we found me a spare mattress. And I put up the previous blog post. And I was Ághám's hhevruta for some hhazara review he had to do.

On Friday we made fun of each other's having flipped out (he wears a jacket for davening and a velvet yarmulka, I wear a jacket and tie for davening), went to mínyan, ate breakfast, went to a class or two, argued about whether snow is good (me) or bad (him), ate lunch, and got ready for Shabbos. Me and one of the other yeshiva bochurs I met there went on a search for galoshes at an evil Walmart (but aren't they all?), but couldn't find any. I did buy a new winter hat, though.

Friday Night, Ághám, two other students, and I went to eat dinner by one of their teachers' house. The teacher who lives in my old house! So I got to eat Shabbos dinner in my old house. Which was very surreal. The teacher/rabbi is a really nice guy, and his family are really cool, and the food was great, but it was so damn surreal to be getting random flashes of familiarity whenever I looked around. I remembered tracing the relief pattern on the walls with my fingers, climbing on the wrong side of the stairway banister, and sledding down the driveway. The layout of the rooms was familiar, the kitchen cabinets were familiar, and the snow-covered deck out back was familiar. And then I went to the bathroom, where I felt a strangely weak sense of familiarity. I looked down at the floor tiles, and the pattern looked familiar. But not familiar enough. And then I bent over to get a closer look, and the closer my view of the tiles became, the more they looked familiar — since after all, when I lived there I was much shorter than I am today!

Saturday Day, me, Ághám, and another yeshiva bochur went to RYG"B's(!) house for Shabbos lunch. His family is also really cool, and the food was also great, and it was also somewhat surreal. How so? Because even though I wasn't eating a Shabbos meal surrounded by random memories of my early life, I was still eating a Shabbos meal with a teacher at a friend's yeshiva who also just happens to be a fellow blogger! Among the topics discussed at the meal were the world of teaching and Jewish edumacation; the life of Orthodox Jews in 'Secular Colleges'; Yekkedom and the community of Frankfurt-de‘al-Hudson; and of course (what Jewish blogger could resist?) Rav Slifkin. We also sang a Shabbos zemira written by RYG"B, and I did mayim ahharonim Torahumaddachic-style. Which is a big deal since until recently I would categorically refuse to ever do it, thanks to a bad Chabad experience in college.

Shabbos nap, Minhha, Ma‘ariv, Havdala, Rockland CoachUSA bus home (from the bus station in supposedly-sketchy downtown Spring Valley).

Once again, my Shabbos in Greater Jewish Monsey Spring Valley was an overall positive experience. But i still don't get the Yeshivish world. I just don't understand it. And I know that it's not for me.


Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Our ewe coming two the UWS four next Shmabbes?

12/11/2005 10:32 PM  
Blogger Lab Rab said...

What is the acronym after Rosa Parks'name?

Can you share more about the history of Steg and Mayim Achronim?

12/12/2005 12:49 AM  
Blogger Lipman said...

mayim ahharonim Torahumaddachic-style

Whazzat? You engaged in this, just as TuM people engage in this, or is there a mayyem achrounem vasser water style that is particular to TuM people?

We also sang a Shabbos zemira written by RYG"B

Composed the text, or wrote the music? (Or both?)


Where does my dislike of the word z(e)mira 'a song' come from? I always understand this as 'singing, chant' or 'niggen' (when lerning) like zimro, not as 'a specific song', and I always say zemer as a singular of zmires. When I discussed an evening for children the other day, I was irritated each time one of the Israeli teachers talked about zmirrA.

Is this a (historically) erroneous back-formation from zmirOtt, or is my sprachgefuehl simply wrong on that?

Our ewe coming two the UWS four next Shmabbes?

[tu:] ≠ [tə]
[fo:(r)] ≠ [fə/(r)]

And no inflationary adjustment!?

12/12/2005 6:57 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


I'm planning on it, i just don't know how to split my time yet, since "Proton" also invited me to the area, and he just got engaged! (מזל טוב ומברוכ)


zç"l is just zatza"l, with the tzadi spelled as Ç.


There is a particular method of washing mayim ahharonim that was demonstrated to me by the blogger and friend-of-bloggers who goes by the ID "Torahumaddachic". It involves grasping the rim of the utensil from above with all fingers (like taking a 'pinch' of salt) and then gently tipping the utensil so that the water flows onto/past the fingers. Then you rub your hands together and use the moisture to make sure your mouth/face/beard are clean (she doesn't have a beard, in case you were wondering).

RYG"B composed the text; the tune was borrowed from what may have been a Carlebach tune; it was used for Lekha Ðoði the night before.

You're probably right about zemer/zemira. I know i use zemira solely due to the logic of back-formation.

12/12/2005 9:50 AM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

I share Lip-Man's distaste for the form "zemiro" to mean "a specific song".

However, I was wondering a few days ago why the plural of זֶמֶר should be זְמִירוֹת, rather than זְמָרִים or זְמָרוֹת.

12/12/2005 10:09 AM  
Anonymous brother esav said...

However, Spring Valley also seems to have some kind of ghetto reputation. That's 'ghetto' as in gangsta rap, not ghetto as in golem of Prague. Which makes the Jews of Spring Valley even more averse to identifying themselves as Spring Valleyites. When I went downtown to catch the bus back to NYC, though, it didn't look like such a bad area. I don't know what they're so scared of.

Suburbanites are notoriously unable to correctly identify "bad neighborhoods" against "good neighborhood".

12/12/2005 12:49 PM  
Anonymous Willendorf said...

Spring Valley! My great-grandmother a"h ran a boardinghouse in Spring Valley in the 1920s.

12/12/2005 4:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steg - who knew? I spent several conflicted years in the American "ir hakodesh", where my husband was a rabbi. We are now elsewhere. Only place I know of outside of Israel where you could get spelt shmurah maztah, which a friend needed for health reasons. One heck of a unique place! Glad you had a nice shabbos!


12/12/2005 9:45 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


very cool! That was a bit before my time, though ;-)


i think i saw a box of spelt matza while i was there, probably not shmura at this time of the year though. would you mind specifying where in the area you lived, if it's not too personal? was it Spring Valley itself, or one of the other villages?


Sorry i forgot about the mayim ahharonim story.
Go to my anti-chabad post and scroll down to the second named subsection, "And Wet".

12/12/2005 9:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Monsey, baby, Monsey. Ir Ha Kodesh itself. Can't get more specific than that. Email, and we'll chat. Facinating experience for someone who, while quite familiar with frumkeit, never actually lived in a place that so resembled Me'ah She'arim. And if you think Monsey is intense, visit New Square.

12/12/2005 10:13 PM  
Blogger MC Aryeh said...

I just have to say how much I appreciate your general anarchist tendencies. Very refreshing!

Loved your descriptions of the visit to your old home and the mechitzahed bus ride.

Anytime anyone tells me they are from Monsey, I will now say - "oh, you mean the greater Jewish Spring Valley area?"

What is it about the yeshivish world you don't like/don't get?

12/13/2005 9:39 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Anarchist tendencies? me? No way... really? I know i have hippie iconoclastic tendencies, but anarchist? Cool. Although that does complicate my attempt to be all grown-up and respectabiggle.

Spring Valley thanks you! Btw in case you were wondering, there's no need to do the same thing to Greater Jewish Flatbush, though, since it's funny enough that Flatbush itself is a Caribbean neighborhood a bit too far outside the Jewish Flatbush area ;-) .

Let's see, Yeshivish world.
First of all there's the obsession with uniform-ity; the monochromatism, the black hats... Not that it seemed anyone looked down on me for my hatlessness and polychromatism, but the way people were in such anticipation of getting a black hat, it seemed a bit overblown to me for a piece of clothing.
Then there's the ideal of isolation/insulation from the Outside World, as if it were wholly and dangerously evil. Staying in yeshiva for as long as possible, with as little contact with the rest of the world as possible. And the view of other Jews and other human beings in general; my old neighborhood is almost 100% hhareidi now, and they're very happy that way. I like diversity, I wouldn't want to live in a neighborhood that's completely like me. Also, I was talking to a student there who was complaining about how "The Goyim" driving around on Shabbos bothers him walking. They drive "too fast", etc.; I admit, i've only been there for two shabbosim lately, but the driving in G.J.S.V. didn't seem any worse than anywheres else. And the guy kept on using the word "goyim" over and over again, instead of simply saying "they" or "people"/"people who drive on shabbos" like i was using in response. I don't know whether he didn't know that many people consider it derogatory, or just didn't care. And this is someone who only a few years ago probably had many Non-Jewish friends and acquaintances!
There's also the extended context of the Slifkin issue; I was told that there are people at the yeshiva and many people in the community who are for the ban and anti-science, and consider R' Slifkin and all of us who consider his hhidushim no big deal, hashqafa-wise, to be heretics. I could never be part of a community that considered me an evil dangerous (misguided?) heretic for following my God-given Reason, even if there are other parts of the community that do believe in critical thinking.

12/13/2005 10:05 AM  
Blogger GoldaLeah said...

Why a mechitza on a bus? Men have to concentrate on a bus? Wasn't the original purpose of the mechitza to enable ecstatic prayer? A mechitza on a bus... I'm constantly amazed when things Jewish seem so foreign.

12/13/2005 10:27 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


That's why i was so shocked (even though i'd heard about mehhitzas on busses before)!

12/13/2005 10:30 AM  
Blogger MC Aryeh said...

Respectagibbility is vastly overrated. Much better to be an iconoclastic hippie anarchist.

I share all of your issues with the yeshivish world, except maybe being considered a "evil dangerous misguided heretic" for appreciating Nosson Slifkin. That has a certain appeal.

The issues don't apply to the entire yeshivish world, though, It would be like saying all modern orthdox people go on tefillin dates, look for halachic lopopholes, have no interest in Torah learning, and are obsessed with materialism and status. Truth in there? Sure. The norm? Hopefully not.

I respect your views. For me, though, I don't see that any other segment of Orthodoxy being any better, so for now I am choosing not to choose, until what I am willing to compromise on becomes clearer.

12/13/2005 10:42 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


I know it doesn't apply to the entire Yeshivish world, but it seems to be an accepted segment of that world.

12/13/2005 12:56 PM  
Blogger GoldaLeah said...

p.s. What the heck does the Hebrew say on my listing on your blogroll? ;) (Yes, yes, my name I can read.)

12/13/2005 3:32 PM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...


It says "Golda-Leah taskun fī 'l-maghreb", Judaeo-Arabic for "Golda-Leah lives in the west."

12/13/2005 4:27 PM  
Blogger Balabusta in Blue Jeans said...

A mechitza on a bus? Oh, never mind, I won't go there. At least they divided it down the middle.

12/17/2005 9:51 PM  
Blogger torahumaddachic said...

I had no idea that my "method" had other applications... this is just like that evolution of a halakha email that went around a few years ago... Besides, i developed it because the cup is too small and too round to tip water into the base otherwise, a design flaw which should be taken up with the fine people at Our Name is Mud. And the moistening of face et al mentioned is mefurash a gemara, not a personal idiosyncrasy. and were it not for the fact that i (along with most females) lack facial 5-alpha-reductase in the cells of most of my face, i too would have a beard.

12/21/2005 12:57 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


What evolution of a halakha email that went around a few years ago?
I know about the face-moistening being in the gemara from Amshinover i think. But i've seen vary few people actually be maqpid on doing it that way, so it allows me to do mayim ahharonim while still expressing my iconoclastic hippie anarchist tendencies (see above)

12/21/2005 8:08 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home