Explosive Growth Since 2000 in State's Hasidic Enclaves

New York Times/June 29, 2007
By Sewell Chan and Jo Craven McGinty

Kiryas Joel, an Orthodox Jewish enclave in southern Orange County, grew faster than any other community in New York State from 2000 through 2006, according to census data released yesterday.

Kiryas Joel grew by 51 percent, to 20,071 residents from 13,273, over the six-year period. The village was incorporated in 1977 as an offshoot of the Satmar Hasidic sect in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It has had an unusually high rate of natural growth, largely because under the community's religious beliefs, birth control is banned and women tend to marry young and stay in the village.

The Census Bureau provided population estimates for 615 incorporated places in New York State; The New York Times calculated the rate of growth for each community from 2000 through 2006.

Generally, the communities that grew the fastest during that period were small villages. After Kiryas Joel, the next fastest-growing community was New Square, a Skverer Hasidic village in Rockland County, established in 1954; the tiny village of West Hampton Dunes, population 17, in Suffolk County; the village of Maybrook, in Orange County; and the village of Old Westbury, in Nassau County.

Kiryas Joel is named after Joel Teitelbaum, the Satmar rebbe who, during the Holocaust, fled with members of the community from their historic home in what is now Romania and established a new base in Brooklyn.

"They want to create in the New World a replica of the Old World he and his followers had lost," said Jonathan D. Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University. "This is what I call a kind of spiritual revenge: 'Hitler and the Nazis wanted to destroy us, and we will long outlive them, as we have long outlived so many other enemies.' "

The community has not only maintained its linguistic and cultural practices, but also fostered "a fierce antimodernism and anti-Zionism," Dr. Sarna said.

The move upstate occurred in part because of the high cost of living in Brooklyn and because of sectarian and turf conflicts; other Satmar Hasidic Jews remain in Brooklyn.

In absolute terms, New York City had the largest growth of any community in the state, gaining 196,076 residents, or 2 percent, between 2000 and 2006. (The Census Bureau estimates that the city has 8.2 million people, but city officials plan to protest that estimate, as they have in the past, saying it is too low.)

In raw terms, Kiryas Joel, with a gain of 6,798 residents, was second to New York City in growth. White Plains, in Westchester County, which grew by 3,739 residents, or 7 percent, was third; New Square, with a gain of 2,228 residents, was fourth; and the town of Harrison, with a gain of 2,103 residents, or 9 percent, was fifth.

The state's population grew by an estimated 1.7 percent, to 19.3 million in 2006 from 19 million in 2000.

But New York's largest cities generally declined in population over that period. Buffalo, the state's second-largest city, lost 16,114 residents, or 6 percent of its population. Rochester, the third-largest city, lost 10,352 residents, or 5 percent. Yonkers, the fourth-largest city, grew by 1 percent, or 1,524 residents. Syracuse, the fifth-largest city, lost 5,574 residents, or 4 percent.

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