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Monday, January 23, 2006

Boro Park: Baby Boom Capital

Cute piece in today's NY Post that confirms something most of us already knew: that Boro Park is the "baby-boom capital of the Big Apple".

From the article (free registration req.):
The heavily Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn neighborhood recorded 4,523 births in 2004 — by far the most in the city.

"Children make our households beautiful," said Faigy Schwarz as she strolled along 13th Avenue with her 2-year-old son, Rifay.

"Let's keep going with God's help!" said Bertha Singer, who was pushing a double stroller carrying her 2-month-old son, Isaac, and 2-year-old nephew, Alex.

... As for Borough Park, a walk through the neighborhood confirmed it is the city's Baby Belt.

Dozens of children's-clothing, maternity and baby-carriage shops dot 13th Avenue, the main thoroughfare. Even on a cold winter day, the sidewalks look like stroller derbies. There's not a bar, OTB or trendy club in sight.

"The neighborhood is expanding on all four sides. You can't just live without having kids," said Yitzhok Singer, a father of nine who owns the Tiny Town children's store.

Many Jewish parents said they were adhering to the Torah, which encourages families to have many children.

Couples marry younger in Borough Park than most other New Yorkers and have children sooner — and more of them.

Morris Guttman explained the big families by saying, "We're compensating for the 6 million Jews who were burned and killed during World War II."
They got it almost all right - though the lack of bars, trendy clubs and OTB's might have more to do with the mostly Ultra-Orthodox population of the neighborhood than its large number of births.

That said, as my friend JPT points out in his post on the topic, in news cycles such as these, when it seems all we are reading and hearing about is the tragic story of the death by abuse and neglect of poor Nixmary Brown, reading about fellow Jews who treat having and caring for large numbers of children as a joy and a privilege is heartening.

Oh, and JPT, you were right, I was writing a post about this. Ten bucks your way.


Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


3:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

--- Morris Guttman explained the big families by saying, "We're compensating for the 6 million Jews who were burned and killed during World War II." ---

I have often heard Chassidim explain their high birth rate by saying its to compensate for the Holocaust. I do not think this is the true motivation. Chassidim are social conservatives. High birth rates are a common characteristic of socially conservative religions, regardless of whether these groups suffered from mass annihilation. For example, look at devout Catholics, Mormons, Amish, Muslims, etc. More plausible explanations for the high birth rate among Chassidim and socially conservative groups in general are; (1), traditional gender roles are result in women not working, so they are more able to have a lot of children; (2) the burden of high birth rates is disproportionately on women, who tend to have less power; (3) strong group identity results in less concern for individual’s interests where an individual’s interests collide with the group’s interests; (4) the younger age at which people get married allows more time during which people can have children.

The Holocaust as a justification for high birth rates always bothered me. The Holocaust was not just a tragedy for the Jewish people as a group in a demographic sense. It was a tragedy in an individual sense. Thus, if Morris Guttman were to have six million children, he would have “replaced” those who died, but would not have reduced the suffering of a single victim by one iota.

10:42 PM  
Blogger Just Passing Through said...

VFB: Good point. I thought of raising that comment the the post I wrote on my site. I always thougth that that comment was shallow and cliche. No question that now, 60 years after the shoa, we are still only making up in numbers. But we don't have children to 'make up' for those lost. We have children as new beginnings. I chose not to raise that comment so as not to detract from the other comments that reflected a more positive outlook.

(oh and thanks for the link Mom)

9:31 AM  
Blogger Shifra said...

What kinda name is that?

1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can you say women aren't working? Who is supporting the kollel life these people are living, if not the wife? Oh, right, her grandparents. But who is going to support the 9 kids?

8:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>(1) traditional gender roles are result in women not working, so they are more able to have a lot of children

Just a newsflash: Those of us who don't work outside of the home are either in the minority or are quickly becoming the minority.

9:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Since I do not know who you are, or what group you are part of, I do not know what you mean by us.

It is certainly true among the Yeshivish people, that women work, because the men are in kollel. That is not the case for the people in Boro Park, who are mainly Chassidish. Among Chasidim, a much smaller percentage are in kollel long term. (although the numbers are increasing.) You will not find too many women in Boro Park who work and have many children unless you count jobs that are very part time.

9:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

vfb, we are part of a community that includes everyone from the very modern orthodox to the very yeshivishe. My observations show that the very yeshivishe women tend to have more children and work more than the more modern orthodox women.

Chassidish women tend to stay home more than their yeshivishe counterparts, but even that is changing.

11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also to vfb, while some of the women work because their husbands are in kollel, most of them would work regardless.

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One wonders about the reason for this sudden boom during these difficult times.

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