“Excuse me sir, are you Jewish?”
For years, even the most vaguely semitic-looking man walking the streets of hipster (North) Williamsburg couldn’t avoid the question from one of the young Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men posted at the streetcorners. I have curly hair. I got it often.
Now the Chabad have turned it up a notch with “Unite the Beards,” a slick and schlocky video campaign designed to show hipsters that hey, we all have beards… so maybe we’re not so different, you and I…
Unfortunately, the Times reports that the beards that did show up were probably all Hasidic: “Maybe it was the lack of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer (or alcohol at all) or special brewed coffee (there was plenty of instant), but the attendance of bearded hipsters was sparse, and possibly nonexistent.”
Which would have thrilled the Lubavitcher’s archrivals, the Satmars of South Williamsburg, who back in 2004 distributed a prayer “For the Protection of Our City of Williamsburg From the Plague of the Artists.” To my knowledge they didn’t distinguish between Jew and Gentile which, I suppose, could be thought of as a relatively broad-minded achievement. It went a little something like this:
Master of the Universe, have mercy upon us and upon the borders of our village and do not allow the persecution to come inside our home; please remove from upon us the plague of the artists, so that we shall not drown in evil waters, and so that they shall not come to our residence to ruin it.
Please place in the hearts of the homeowners that they should not build, God forbid, for these people, and strengthen their hearts so that they can withstand this difficult test and so that they will not sell for the lure of money.
Please, our Father God of Mercy, have mercy upon our generation that is weak, and remove this difficult test from these people, these immoral antagonists that by their doing will multiply, God forbid, the excruciating tests and the sight of the impurity and immorality that is growing in the world.
And here we live in fear that owing to the encroachment of these individuals upon our community we will not be able to teach our sons and daughters according to the methods of Israel.
Please, our Father of Mercy, for the sake of our fathers and our sages who gave their lives to allow religion to remain upon the lowly American soil, and for the sake of their merit, preserve the residence, do so for your love of those who came from the dust. Please, our Father of Mercy, do not give the aggressor the portion that you have acquired and that you have freed from slavery with your great strength.
And we know also, we know that we have no strength other than our mouths, and if we have brought on a decree from you, please repeal this harsh decree, because we lack strength and may not be able to withstand this difficult test, God forbid.