“Jewish Brooklyn is very large and very complex,” said Jacob Ukeles, co-author of the UJA-Federation of New York’s Jewish Community Study of New York: 2011. “There is no place like it.”
Of Brooklyn’s 2.4 million residents, 561,000 - or 23% - are Jewish; up from 18% in 2002
Growing Orthodox families - where having five or more children is common - in Crown Heights, Borough Park and other Jewish enclaves account for much of the increase, the study found.
A surge in secular Jewish families in Brownstone Brooklyn has added to the increase, UJA officials said.
Meanwhile, the number of Jewish children among observant families has grown dramatically, officials said.
“We are bursting at the seams. We don’t have an inch of space,” said Rabbi Nosson Blumes of Oholei Torah boys yeshiva in Crown Heights. “Every inch of space was rebuilt to accommodate classrooms.”
The dramatic population increases have also brought both poverty and power to Orthodox Jews.
“Brooklyn is the capital of Jewish poverty in America,” said Willie Rapfogel, CEO of Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty which found that one in four Brooklyn Jews are poor. “There are significant amounts of poor Jewish children.”
Kosher soup kitchen chain Masbia feed hundreds each week in Flatbush and Borough Park.
“Hasidic Jews are so into spirituality that they can be poor and happy,” said Masbia executive dorector Alexander Rapaport. “The way of life is hard to understand for people living on the outside.”
“When people are running for office, the needs of the Orthodox community have to be addressed,” said Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Borough Park), who helped land state funding for street surveillance cameras in Borough Park and buses for yeshiva students earlier this year. “We really count more than ever before.”
Meanwhile Brownstone neighborhoods are also attracting an influx of secular families with high incomes.
“There really is a ‘rejewification’ going on in Brownstone Brooklyn,” said Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, head of Congregation Mount Sinai in Brooklyn Heights. “People from all over are moving in and you are seeing a stronger Jewish visibility.”
By Simone Weichselbaum / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS