Every holiday has its signifier that it is time to celebrate. For Christmas, lights are everywhere; for Thanksgiving, there is football, and we have a Nippleless Android costume come Halloween time. For the High Holidays, the important Jewish holidays that take up most of the month of September, it is the call of random men asking “Jewish? Jewish? Are you Jewish?” Here at NYJew Local, we know you don’t know who they are. We have all the answers:
Who are these guys?
They are Chabad, an extremely orthodox sect of Judaism. The movement has over 200,000 adherents, and up to one million Jews attend Chabad services at least once a year. So, you know, kind of a big deal.
So they’re legit. Where did they come from?
The Chabad base is in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. They took the 3 to the N to get you to shake your lulav like a Polaroid picture.
Nothing. That’s a joke I heard from my mother. Basically, the long-time leader of the entire movement, the Rebbe Menacham Mendal Schneerson, used to study at 770 Eastern Parkway. Many thought he was the Messiah (like Jesus, but human). After he died, the building is now a holy sanctuary of study.
Great. So why are they in Union Square accosting me?
The Chabad sect believes in every Jew fulfilling the commandments; this is also known as doing mitzvot. There is a huge campaign to get non-observant Jews to adopt Orthodox observance levels, or at least do some mitzvoth when they can. That’s why they’re shouting you down; they want you to fulfill the Torah!
So they don’t want money?
Nope, just your time and Jewish soul.
That’s awful selfless of them.
It is also preparation for the coming of the Messiah, so yeah, kind of.
But I’m not even Jewish!
Okay, so there’s some visual discrimination. Alright, a lot of visual discrimination. But when you’re trying to get random Jews to do mitzvot, you’re not going to waste your time asking the blond-haired, blue-eyed girl if they put on tefillin this morning.
Doesn’t that get really annoying? You know, like, a level of religious observance being pushed on you, when you’re randomly walking down the street?
Does NYU have these guys?
Yeah, actually. They’re usually outside of Weinstein, also saying “Jewish?” They have a swanky new building on top of the 7-11 on Bowery. Unlike the Crown Heights faction, they’ll just get your e-mail address and bombard you with kitchy names for Friday Night Dinners. CHICKEN FRIED SHABBAT. OBAMA SHABBAT. MEXICAN SHABBAT. (I only made up one of those).
Last question: what’s this about baby penises?
What? No… but… it’s not… I don’t know.