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Friday, March 17, 2006

Five Towns Guide To The Perplexed

Krum has a great post up which breaks down the different demographics that make up the wonderful community I call home. Check it out. It is, as always, hilarious. His post struck a nerve, especially the part about the dearth of a decent bookstore:
...there is little, um, how you say, thinking going on in the Five Towns, period. OK. Sorry. That was harsh. But seriously. While there are 75 boutiques and 23 beauty salons on Central Ave., there is only one quite crappy book store.
This has been a rant I've gone on many a time. My version went something like Krum's. One can purchase a wig at one of tens of wig sellers, choose from egg, water, or chocolate chip challah every shabbos, or buy your pick of tens of thousands of shoe styles - from stilettos to motorcycle boots. Yet, the best bookstore this neighborhood can keep in business is a lousy "Borders Express" (formerly an equally lousy Waldenbooks), with the largest selection in the "Popular Fiction" section. And I could swear the alcove that houses the huge selection of glossy fashion and shelter magazines takes up more space than "History" and "Biography" combined. You don't even want to know how huge the "Self-Help" section is. Trust me. And the store closes at 6 PM almost every night. Really.

And Krum is right on the money about the lack of large-scale interest in intellectual pursuits out here. There is a Rav who gives what is called a "Women's Hashkafa Shiur" every week. Nice, but translating Hashkafa as "story time" is a bit loose for my tastes. I know a lot of community women who attend a Shiur given by a local semi-celebrity Rebbetzin, and while I'm sure her experiences and faith make her extremely inspiring to hear, I personally need a little more content mixed in. Let's just say there are a lot more Tehillim groups for women than Chavruta learning programs.

And before any of you trolls come back to my comment section telling me that it is somehow Lashon Hara to talk ill of a neighborhood that includes (roughly) 30,000 Orthodox Jews, be aware that as I've said before, the behavior I describe here is not objectively bad. The people who live out here seem to be pretty happy with the status quo. It certainly doesn't seem to be hurting the demand for real estate any. And if you still feel you have to comment and defend this neighborhood against my supposed slander and libel, go do it at Krum's. He started this.

31 Comments:

Blogger Jewish Blogmeister said...

There must be other women who feel as you do. Why don't you start some sort of chavruta program of some sort?

1:01 PM  
Blogger Krum as a bagel said...

Thanks for the link. And let me reiterate, I don't mean to denigrate the Five Towns with my post in anyway. I think the lack of ideology and the blurrines of boundaries between groups is a good thing. People simply don't get worked up about hashkafa too much. It fosters diversity and openness.

1:12 PM  
Blogger MUST Gum Addict said...

Yet, the best bookstore this neighborhood can keep in business is a lousy "Borders Express"...

I think you're making the same mistake I often see of those who analyze data incorrectly by igonoring other factors. Many people use Amazon or other online resources to buy books. The other items you speak of like certain kinds of clothes, food, etc are the kidns of items that people like to see or try out before they buy. And even that is to an extent. For example, Victoria's Secret shut down long ago here not because they weren't doing brisk business, but because most of the people order that stuff online these days. In fact, when Omaha Steaks opened a store on Central Avenue, it was because their data showed a large amount of orders coming from this area. With artscroll.com and with amazon.com and with both men and women working all day, there's less time to sip a latte and peruse books in a store.

There is a Rav who gives what is called a "Women's Hashkafa Shiur" every week. Nice, but translating Hashkafa as "story time" is a bit loose for my tastes.

Have you attended this particular shiur? Or is this just hearsay? I ask because I have heard from others (including Mrs. Must, who attends) that the shiur is heavy hashkafa, maharal, and very deep -- not story telling in the least bit.

I have comments to post on Krum's blog as well and will do so when blogger lets me do so... :)

1:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree with Must.

Mrs. Anonymous likes the Rav's Tuesday night shiur very much, and I understand that it comes with plenty of content. Of course, this probably means that Mom's Rav is not Mrs. Anon's and Must's Rav...

1:58 PM  
Blogger respondingtojblogs said...

Many people use Amazon or other online resources to buy books.

Are you suggesting that Orthodox Jewish communities in general and 5T in particular use Amazon more than other populations? Or are you just trying to justify the apparent lack of any intellectual pursuits in 5T? Because buy that logic Amazon has a very dedicated following in East New York.

2:09 PM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

i wouldn't buy a book on Central Ave. No need to pay more after having to look for a parking spot when i can order ANYTHING I need from amazon and pay if not less, exactly the same (shipping is a factor).

And, for the times when I don't feel like paying for a book, the Woodmere-Hewlett side of the 5 Towns has probably the best library I have ever used...not to mention that if they don't have a book, you can just track it down online and they deliver it to your local library and call you when it arrives. This neighborhood has no need for a better bookstore.

2:18 PM  
Blogger MUST Gum Addict said...

Are you suggesting that Orthodox Jewish communities in general and 5T in particular use Amazon more than other populations? Or are you just trying to justify the apparent lack of any intellectual pursuits in 5T? Because buy that logic Amazon has a very dedicated following in East New York.

OK, so I'll admit that as an author I'm familiar with the publishing industry (most of my clients are also in the publishing sector). The fact is that the advent of amazon (and I remember when they were just books) has changed the face of retail today. You think it's just a coincidence that bookstores now have cafe's inside them? Bookstores are now "boutique shops" that are social places for people to meet. In addition to being a front for publicity stunts like book signings and promotions.

The demographic of this area doesn't lend to the need for such a place. People don't "sit" in the 5T -- they have people to do and things to see :)

2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We moved to 5T about 3 years ago with our 4 kids mainly because the schools are pretty good compared to what we had before, but I too have found no serious learning stimulation in 5T and little interest in intellectual pursuits. My wife has also complained of no "real" (i.e. serious text-based) learning opportunities. I have one chavrusa, but have yet to find anyone besides that individual that I can really "talk in learning" with except for one local Rav who is a Chaitnik. Granted, my wife and I have high expectations (I am a musmach of YU myself, she has a PhD in Eng Lit), but it is still frustrating feeling no one out there has even similar interests. If anyone thinks 5T is representitive of MO, that is absurd. I attemtped to post to Krum's site, but don't know if it went through. I have my own blog, but will post this anonymously, which leads to my question - I (and my wife) are anon to you, I don't know who you or Krum are, yet it sounds like we are looking for more out of the 5T than sushi or the lastest home remodeling fashions (sorry for the somewhat abusive stereotype). How does one discover the "hidden" intellects of the 5T? Is there an oasis of intellectual activity I have been missing these three years?

2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

formerly an equally lousy Waldenbooks

Oh, I remember that store when I lived in Far Rockaway. The word you are looking for to describe this store is "craptacular."

2:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mrs. Anonymous likes the Rav's Tuesday night shiur very much, and I understand that it comes with plenty of content.

Um... My wife has been to the shiur a couple of times. As I understand it, it's sort of hit or miss.

Of course, this probably means that Mom's Rav is not Mrs. Anon's and Must's Rav...

Or maybe OM attended on one of his off weeks...

3:13 PM  
Blogger X-LR8 said...

sounds like it may be a good investment to open a good book store in your neighborhood.

3:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone has good points with regard to interpreting the lousy bookstore on Central Ave.

But as one who remembers when it was "Reader's Market," way, way, way, way before Amazon.com--let's just say that for at least two decades, there's been little in the way of intellectual stimulation in the 5 Towns and Rockaways.

That said, it is obvious that lots of people are intellectually curious. Trouble is that you never know that the guy or gal in shul sitting near you is. We don't have signs on our foreheads, but perhaps we should.

Good shabbos.

5:46 PM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

"sounds like it may be a good investment to open a good book store in your neighborhood."

sounds like you don't read to well.

5:46 PM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

oops: don't read "too well"

5:47 PM  
Anonymous sam said...

You speak of women's tehillim groups as though they are intellectually inferior to chavruta learning programs, which is an assumption that puts way too much stock in the intellectual level attained by most learning programs. Also, I'm sure david hamelech is rolling his eyes in his grave - you should only know of the kavvanos that go thru the head of the people saying tehillim.

9:22 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

You speak of women's tehillim groups as though they are intellectually inferior to chavruta learning programs,

Well, no one here is disputing that Tehillim groups are valuable. But I think it's a bit misguided to say that even the most lofty of kavanah that can be mustered during the recitation of Tehillim is enough to meet the needs of people who are thirsting for more intellectual stimulation.

9:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I alluded to this in a previous comment and I was attacked. The 5T is Long Island at its best - a well-deserved sterotype! Uch!

3:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Mrs. Must & Mrs Anon....just think, you could of been dancing instead!!!

5:48 PM  
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10:44 PM  
Anonymous Island Ave said...

Anon with YU smicha. If you would like a good shiur please come to Island Avenue Shul tonight (and every tuesday night) at 9:00. Women's shiurim (very text based) are also given at the shul once a month.

10:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally, I love living in such a superficial neighborhood with little to no intellectual stiimulation. I work my butt off during the week and love being able to stroll The Avenue on a Sunday with my kids and shop or just go to shul and daven and not have to listen to some wannabe intellectualist (read: Riverdale/Teaneck) Rabbi deliver some esoteric sermon about some garbage. Give me current events and Banna Republic!

7:33 PM  
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