It’s a crisp Friday evening, just before dusk. My girlfriend and I are walking down Bedford Avenue looking for a place to eat. Now, I’m convinced, if you’re not from Williamsburg, or any other prominently Jewish neighborhood, the roar of what sounds like air raid sirens might startle you. As the sunset begins to fade into the night sky, the sirens sound like the ones you hear in Silent hill just before the mist settles in and the monsters make their way from the shadows. As you’d figured, it’s not 10 foot blood thirsty monsters.
It’s the large Orthodox community observing their Shabbat, singled by the loud blow of the “shofar” however, in Brooklyn the Jewish community makes due with horns that blare out for miles.
The start of Shabbat marks the day of rest in the Jewish religion. The sirens are used to alert practicing Orthodox Jews to head home to observe Shabbat. Personally, growing up in Woodside Queens, I live in a diverse neighborhood however, my community doesn’t have many Jewish families. Following my initial scare in Williamsburg, I was curious about the customs of Shabbat. After doing some research, I noted some interesting traditions and misconceptions about Shabbat.
I got in contact with David Avezov, a close friend who also happens to be Jewish. The first thing I noticed is that there are discrepancies in how Jewish people practice traditions. It’s commonly known that Jewish people would take a day of rest on the 7th day of the week. The bible says that God created the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th. This explains the ringing of the siren on Friday. That is an example of how Orthodox Jews practice the “shabbat”. Orthodox Jews follow strict rules of using no technology or even lights. I asked David if he abstains from using technology on this day and he told me “…1/3 of the time we’re showing each other stuff on our phones. Not using tech is hardcore, we’re modern. There’s platanos and seaweed salad on the table.” I find it interesting that local cultures in NewYorkCity have influenced my friends family to try foods, Jews may have not had exposure too in Israel or Europe. From his response and my knowledge of his own practices, I perceived David as an Americanized/Modernized Jewish person.
In contrast, my friend Tammy said, “…during sun down, we light two Shabbat candles. Then my mom will typically pray for something she hopes to happen because it’s supposed to be a moment where God is listening to your prayers openly. Then we have a family dinner.” My friend David similarly said, “Most Fridays we meetup together in a house, one of the families whether it’s ours, my sisters, or her in-laws.” There is a mutual understanding between all Jewish people modern or Orthodox that Shabbat is to be spent with family and the people you love, while also observing god.
Avezov, David, and Tammy Zaw. “Shabbat.” Online interview. 21 Feb. 2016.
Rich, Tracey R. “Judaism 101: Shabbat.” Judaism 101: Shabbat. Rich, 2011. Web. 21 Feb. 2016.