How Williamsburg Hipsters and Real Estate Billions Transformed This Hasidic Sect

Satmar Hasidim were once known as a particularly monastic community. But life in Brooklyn has an impact

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A Williamsburg street in 2019. Gourmet pizzerias, sushi places, designer clothing stores, and wine shops.
A Williamsburg street in 2019. Gourmet pizzerias, sushi places, designer clothing stores, and wine shops.Credit: Seth Wenig / AP
Tzach Yoked
Tzach Yoked
Tzach Yoked
Tzach Yoked

Not many people may remember Malcolm Baldrige, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of commerce. In 1984, the tough politician, known as “the cowboy in the cabinet,” was invited by the Satmar Hasidic sect to visit the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg. A biography of the conservative politician published in 2015 describes the impression the experience made on him. “Mac [Baldrige] was impressed by the intellect of the children but was chagrined when he learned that no Hasidic children attended college,” the authors, Chris Black and B. Jay Cooper, write. “After his first visit, Mac told an aide traveling with him, ‘I’m going to make sure these kids go to college. They are being held back by not being allowed to leave, and they and society lose.”

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