New York

Hasidim v. Hipsters: The Great Williamsburg Bike Lane Debate is Tonight!


This is the ultimate fight: Tonight’s debate at Pete’s Candy Store in Williamsburg between the hipsters and the Hasidim about the Bedford Avenue bike lane.

You know the background: The Hasids, mostly Satmars, don’t want to see half-naked goyim pedaling their bikes. The city late last year removed the inner stripe of the bike lane and painted over the “bike lane” pavement signs.

Keep reading for more on that “repainting” stuff. But the best take on this fight that I’ve read comes from “Bedford bike lanes controversy,” an op-ed piece in, of all places, the Washington Post. Author Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, of big, important Ohev Shalom -The National Synagogue in D.C., happens to be the brother of Williamsburg pro-biking activist Baruch Herzfeld.

The biker activists who got arrested late last year for repainting the bike lane stripes sardonically called themselves “self-hating Jewish hipsters.” At least they have a sense of humor about it, unlike the Satmars.

Thing is, the brothers Herzfeld are Orthodox Jews, but they’re modern ones. Whereas the Satmars are troglodytic Orthodox Jews. They’re probably the most clannish and self-isolating Hasidic sect — they’re not even Zionists, for G-d‘s sakes.

Rabbi Shmuel artfully dissects the controversy, noting that the Satmars are such separatists that they actually like the idea of constructing a ghetto in which to live.

Not that the hipsters are all that different in terms of wanting to make Williamsburg their ghetto. But the bike lane fight is a fascinating culture clash. The hipsters made a big deal out of repainting the inner stripe of the bike lane — that’s what passes for political activism these days. As a colleague of mine shrewdly pointed out, however, the outer stripe of the bike lane hadn’t been touched by the city, so it was still pretty safe to pedal on Bedford even without the inner stripe.

In any case, there’s nothing like a good shouting match, so go to Pete’s tonight for what’s sure to be a sweet and sour evening. Pete’s is at 709 Lorimer St., between Richardson and Frost. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.

By the way, a hundred years ago it was the Jews who were the peddlers in Brooklyn, the Satmar sect barely existed in America, and Spandex hadn’t even been invented.

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