So a Hasidic Jew and a shiksa walk into a hipster bar on the eve of Passover…
But seriously, the other night I went on a blind date with a Hasidic Jew. I’m not gonna lie to you, I was a little hesitant about it at first. Some stereotypes of Hasidic men are that they dislike non-Jewish people, or even that they are big sleezebags who go around kidnapping women and forcing them into their underground brothels. But that seemed silly to me and we were meeting at a crowded bar in the middle of Williamsburg. The Hasid (as he referred to himself online) had been messaging me for a couple weeks, and when he asked me out for drinks I agreed, mainly because I had many questions. The night before we were to meet, he informed me that his profile picture was fake (to protect his identity) and emailed me his real pictures. He then wanted to know whether I thought his real picture or his fake picture was more attractive. I didn’t really know how to respond– both the real him and fake him were short, skinny men with glasses, long beards, and the usual Hasidic get-up.
Admittedly, I had never even seen a Hasid until I moved to Brooklyn. I guess Wisconsin isn’t a big Hasidic hot spot. For those of you who don’t know, Hasidic Judaism is a branch of Orthodox Judaism that is very prominent in certain neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Most of the building owners here are Hasidic, including my former and current landlord. Hasidic men wear black three-piece suits, white dress shirts, yarmulkes or large rabbit fur hats, and have a long curl on either side of their face. The women also must have their arms, legs, and neck covered, even when it’s 100 degrees out. They too wear all black, and married women have to wear a wig or scarf on their head.
The Hasid couldn’t meet until 10:30pm because sneaking off to a bar to meet a non-Hasidic woman is risky business. On the eve before Passover, no less! I didn’t want to go all the way home then back out again, so I spent an hour and a half at La Esquina, eating fish tacos and swapping blind date stories with the bartender over a couple pre-Hasid glasses of wine. She had a really good one involving an uppity lesbian with poached egg all over her face.
When I got to The Levee, I found The Hasid sitting at a table in the back, a large black hoodie covering his traditional garb. He lowered the hood to reveal a pair of tightly wound curls and a velvet yarmulke. Looking back I don’t remember if we shook hands or not; I know Hasidic men are not allowed to touch women who aren’t their wife. He explained that he had to be very careful going to and from bars to meet women because Hasids are very gossipy and will drive around in their minivans looking for something to talk about. Once, a Hasidic landlord caught him on the cameras in his building going into a girl’s apartment and reported it to his boss in an attempt to get him fired. Another time, his boss found his OKCupid profile open on his work computer and that was a big scandal as well. The Hasid bought us a round of beers and I began my questionnaire:
Me: Can you only drink kosher beer?
Him: No, we can only drink kosher wine. Most beer and liquor is already kosher.
Me: But you can’t possibly be allowed to go on OKCupid?
Him: I’m not. We are not supposed to mingle with non-Hasidics, that’s also why we’re not supposed to be in bars. But lots of Hasidic men still go to bars late at night.
Me: Ah, so you’re a rebel. Is there a Hasidics-only dating website like J Date?
Him: No, because we are supposed to use a Matchmaker.
Me: A yenta.
Him: Yes, how do you know about yentas?
Me: I was in “Fiddler on the Roof” once. So only men go to bars and women have to stay home all the time with the kids?
Him: Pretty much. Sometimes we have Hasidic concerts, but the sexes are segregated by a fence. The men are allowed to dance, but the women have to stay seated because they can’t dance in the presence of men.
Me: You mentioned on your profile that you’re divorced. That’s allowed?
Him: Of course it’s allowed.
Me: So what about divorced women? They still have to hide in their homes all day and night?
Him: Yeah, Hasidic girls go to school until they’re 18, then get married and start having children immediately. Some have seven or eight kids. By the time they’re done raising all their children they are old.
Me: Well that sounds pretty unfair that the men get to go out dancing and carousing, but the women don’t get to do anything but get pregnant and sit around the house.
Him: Yeah, it is.
The Hasid told me to get up early the next morning and walk around Bedford Stuyvesant because all of the Hasids would be out burning their bread on the street corners. This is because they aren’t allowed to eat bread for eight(?) days during Passover, so they burn all their leftover loaves the morning prior to the holiday. He asked me if I knew the story of Passover and I said no… but if it was any consolation I also thought Easter was just a holiday for celebrating bunnies and chicks until I was like 18 years old. This was due to the fact that my family is not at all religious, so for Easter we just dyed eggs and went on fun egg hunts, then visited some newly hatched chicks at the local mall. I loved Easter. Then I went away to college in Missouri and saw a “Happy Resurrection” card at Walmart and it was all downhill from there.
Surprisingly enough, The Hasid shared that he had met a lot of non-Jewish women on OKCupid and had made some good friends. When I asked him if he’d ever get married again, he said probably not. But apparently a girl he met on OKCupid, whom he was having a secret affair with, wanted a relationship with him and was incredibly upset when he said he couldn’t date her because she was Asian. Another girl he met on OKCupid told him it was one of her biggest fantasies to sleep with a Hasidic Jew, and spent the whole date talking about it. Wow, who knew? On my to-do list I have things like “pick up laundry,” “vacuum cat hair” and “don’t eat pizza for breakfast.” Not “have sex with a Hasid.”
When our beers were empty and I had run out of questions, he offered to give me a ride home since we live in the same neighborhood. It was a tempting offer, but I declined, saying I didn’t feel comfortable getting into a stranger’s vehicle– especially a minivan. This guy was a real rule-breaker and I didn’t want him to try any funny business once we were alone in his Honda Odyssey.
This date was informative and The Hasid was a very nice man. I learned a thing or two about my Brooklyn neighbors (at least The Hasid’s version of them) and got some insider tips on ensuring I get my damage deposit back when I move in a couple months. When I told a coworker I went out with a Hasidic Jew the night before Passover he said “Whoa, you’re like the Angel of Death!” I laughed… thirty minutes later, after I Wikipedia-ed that reference and actually got it. Now I was really feeling jazzy! What’s next, a monk? Maybe… I have spotted one lingering around the West Village handing out pamphlets…