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HIDDEN WORLDS

New York’s Hot New Tour Is Visiting Ultra Orthodox Jews

“To many, the Hasidic world is shrouded in mystery and secrecy—well, not anymore.”

There are about five blocks of Crown Heights’ Kingston Avenue that serve as the nerve center for the Hasidic Jews that set up roots in the neighborhood in the ’40s. Every day Rabbi Yoni Katz walks down these blocks crowded with men wearing black hats and women wearing wigs, a crew of unlikely companions in tow. In the past, some of them have been Christian, some Muslim (from as far away as Qatar). One group was all Mormon journalism students from Brigham Young University. There’s also a steady trickle of Reform Jews who come to accompany Katz on this daily walk, knowing as little about the enclosed world of Hasidic Jewry as the Japanese tourists that walk with them. 

Katz doesn’t get too many looks from residents as he walks. The residents of Crown Heights are used to visitors. And Katz has been bringing around visitors for a while, as part of his Airbnb experience tour of the Hasidic community in Crown Heights, where people pay $69 a person to go where few non-Jews have gone. For Katz, that’s a selling point.  “To many, the Hasidic world is shrouded in mystery and secrecy—well, not anymore,” he writes in his Airbnb advertisement.

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