Getty Images // Families in Kiryas Joel
Recently, while sitting at a relative’s wedding in Kiryas Joel and picking at the soggy stuffing under the skin of the chicken thigh and listening to the gossip around me, I had an epiphany: I really, badly miss Kiryas Joel.
So, when I got home and kicked off my heels, I took to the Forward website and quickly, before I had any regrets, compiled a list of comments from my articles that prophesied this moment — the moment of guilt and nostalgia for a place that birthed me and gave me boundless love, affection and freedom.
Female friendships are difficult to understand. The bonds that women forge — the really close friendships — are almost invincible. Although I hesitate at stereotyping female friendships, I nevertheless believe some of the stereotypes to be true.
Maybe it’s because I have recently realized that my daughter is treating her friendships differently than my son is, and that to her, finding new friends and forming strong bonds with them is an important process. Or maybe it’s because my own process of finding and maintaining friendships has evolved lately, that I find myself contemplating the connection with the women in my life often.
While attending a major Las Vegas tech conference for work a couple of years ago, I found myself following a Hasidic couple around the convention center. Their presence at the tradeshow was not completely shocking — many religious Jews work in consumer electronics sales (just look behind the counter at B&H in New York City — but I was delighted to catch a glimpse of them. We made our way slowly through the tightly packed throng gawking at the gargantuan Intel Booth — they, making casual conversation about operating systems in Yiddish, and I eavesdropping gleefully from a few paces behind. The wife doubled back for a moment and bumped into me. “Anshuldik mir,” I squeaked. Excuse me. The look of utter surprise on her face stayed with me for weeks.
Some of my cousins happen to live in a town in Orange County, NY, adjacent to the Satmar Hasidic enclave of Kiryas Joel. Whenever I stay with my (completely non-religious) cousins, I feel compelled to pay a visit to the small shopping center in Kiryas Joel. I get a thrill from the supermarket, with its Yiddish signage and patrons shopping for Cholent ingredients (packaged meat is even labeled exclusively for this purpose). I stop to browse through the rack of Yiddish children’s books outside the clothing store (only children would read for pleasure in Yiddish in this community). I can’t overstay my welcome; tourism isn’t exactly encouraged in Kiryas Joel.