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A Glimpse into Orthodox Crown Heights, Courtesy of a Hipster-Hasid Uniter

On a recent summer morning, Rabbi Yoni Katz stood a few steps away from the Kingston train station, in the heart of Crown Heights, as he has been doing every day for the past two years. He was waiting for his guests to show up so he could usher them into a local library and begin his $69-per-head tour of the Hasidic community. As I exited the station and made my way down Kingston Street, I recognized his red beard and laid-back posture from an online profile and cheerfully walked up to him.

“Yoni? Hi!” I said, reaching out to shake hands. “Oh we don’t shake hands,” he said, catching me off guard. “Only men with men and women with women.” 

Katz, 40, is a rabbi of the Lubavitch Hasidic movement and a tour guide who promises an insider’s look into a famously closed-off community. Given that most narratives about the Hasidim are told by people who left (e.g. Netflix documentary One of Us), Katz’s tour is a special phenomenon within the Orthodox Jewish groups of Brooklyn.

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