Kal, or Kalmy as his mother Yenty calls him, comes from New Square, Upstate, New York.
The most religious of the Chassidic communities encompassing mostly post-war, holocaust survivors from Hungary who first moved to Williamsburg and later decided to migrate in the calmer country side where they could better obey the teachings of the Rebbi.
I met Kalman at a Shabbat dinner in Park Slope two weeks ago. He told me his story in front of matzah ball soup and kosher wine. The next day I asked him if we could talk more. We met three more times and then he took me to meet his family Upstate.
Kal left Skvira *(named after the old religious town of Skvira in Hungary where they lived previous to the War) when he was 12 for “many reasons” he says. “The sexual abuses were not all of them. I did not get answers to many of my questions of why all of a sudden I had to wear a black kippa and not a colored one, why we had to wear a longer coat and not a short one, or why we were not allowed to read the part about sexuality within the Torah.”
We set at a dinner table in the dinning all of his 85 years old grandmother as her five daughters have been doing for the past 14 years since their “Tati,” or father, passed away. We listen to tales of WWII and Auschwitz and how she survived it all and has now 35 great-grand children. Her smile is wide and her words are softs spoken when she leans over Kal asking him if he is married yet and when he intends to come back home. He shies away with no answer.
“I have a nostalgia every time I think of Skvira. This is my home. This is where I grew-up. And, even if I do not agree with 99 percent of the things these people believe in, every time I come back I am happy,” he said while sitting outside of his parents house in the cold to listen to the young men of the Yeshiva singing after the evening prayers. “I still sing the same songs all the time while meditating. This is what I was taught. This is what I know.”
Most religious family would have shunt their children away from them once they left the community, but Kal’s family is always welcoming to him. This is not the case for all of the members of New Square, but things around this extremely religious community are changing.
Or so it seems to him.