Lakewood: it ain’t all black and white

Confession: I live in Lakewood. I grew up in Brooklyn. I suppose you could say I am “ultra”-Orthodox/chareidi/whatever you want to call it.

I have to admit that Judy Gruen’s latest blog post kind of ticked me off. Not just because I rarely wear black, but because neither do many of my neighbors, friends and coworkers.

I will not deny that Orthodox women wear far more black than their secular peers. But the picture Judy painted in her piece was far from accurate. And it only serves to reinforce the stereotype that so many ascribe to Orthodox people, that of being intimidating, unwelcoming, unapproachable.

I was paired up with a Torah study partner through Oorah’s TorahMates program. Kelsey grew up knowing little to nothing about Judaism, and, living on the West Coast, had few, if any, interactions with Orthodox Jews. I was probably the first one she ever spoke to.

When Kelsey went to shul for the first time, she was blown away by how welcoming, how inclusive, how friendly everyone was.  “You guys have a real PR problem,” she told me. “I can’t believe how wrong my perception of Orthodox people was.” Unfortunately, her perception is all too common.

I challenge Times of Israel readers to find out for themselves. Come to Lakewood. Talk to us. Get to know us. Like any group, we’ve got our rotten apples, but you’ll be surprised how many genuinely normal people you’ll meet.

Walk into a few clothing stores. Granted, most of the men wear black and white. But if you can’t find a navy skirt, stop by my closet for a tour. I’ve even got some orange in there.



About the Author
Rivka Kirwan is the director of media relations at Kars4Kids, a nonprofit based in New Jersey, where she lives with her husband and two young children. If it were up to her, she'd be living in Israel, which she grew to love in the year she spent there post-high school.