New Square, New York

New Square, New York
See related article Skver (Hasidic dynasty)
New Square, New York
—  Village  —
New Square, New York is located in New York
New Square, New York
Location within the state of New York
Coordinates: 41°8′23″N 74°1′42″W / 41.13972°N 74.02833°W / 41.13972; -74.02833
Country United States
State New York
County Rockland
 – Total 0.4 sq mi (0.9 km2)
 – Land 0.4 sq mi (0.9 km2)
 – Water 0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)
Elevation 492 ft (150 m)
Population (2005 [1])
 – Total 7,830
 – Density ~19,500/sq mi (~8,500/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 – Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 10977
Area code(s) 845
FIPS code 36-50705
GNIS feature ID 0971939

New Square (Yiddish: ניו סקווער, Hebrew: שיכון סקווירא‎) is an all-Hasidic village in the Town of Ramapo, Rockland County, New York, United States located north of Hillcrest; east of Viola; south of New Hempstead and west of New City. Its inhabitants are predominantly members of the Skverer Hasidic movement who seek to maintain a Hasidic lifestyle disconnected from the modern world.



New Square is named after the Ukrainian town Skvyra, where the Skver Hasidim have their roots. The founders intended to name the settlement New Skvir, but a typist-generated error anglicized the name.[2] The village was established in 1954, when the Zemach David Corporation, representing the Skverer Rebbe, Yaakov Yosef Twersky purchased a 130-acre (0.53 km2) dairy farm near Spring Valley, New York. Construction began in 1956, and the first four families moved to New Square in December 1956 from the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn, New York City.[3] In 1958 the settlement had 68 houses.[4]

Ramapo's zoning regulations forbade the construction of multi family houses and the use of basements for shops and stores. Families occupying single-family houses said that they belonged to extended family, and private businesses in private homes had to be secret. In 1961, when the community asked for a building permit to expand its synagogue, located in the basement of a Cape Cod-style house, the town attorney requested the condemnation of the entire New Square community, citing that it threatened sewage lines. In response, the community requested incorporation as a village, and in July 1961 New Square incorporated after the New York Supreme Court had ruled in favor of the village. After it incorporated, New Square set its own zoning and building codes, legalising the existing houses and the liens disappeared. Lots were sold, and new houses were built. The businesses in basements could sell openly, and new businesses were founded, including a watch assembly plant and a cap manufacturer. Three knitting mills and a used car lot opened, but most men continued to go to work in the city. A Kollel was opened in 1963. In 1968, the elder Skverer rebbe died and was succeeded by his son David Twersky.[4]


The community in New Square is made up exclusively of Hasidic Jews, mostly from the Skverer Hasidic movement, who wish to maintain a Hasidic lifestyle while keeping outside influences to a minimum. The predominant language spoken in New Square is Yiddish.[5]

People typically marry around 18 to 20 years of age. Girls finish high school at around age 17 and then marry. Custom dictates that women who marry people who studied in other Hasidic communities leave New Square. Some women who left New Square settled in the Borough Park community in Brooklyn and the Monsey community of the Town of Ramapo, where the community is not as tightly knit. Men who marry women from outside of the community are encouraged to stay in New Square.[6]

In 2005 the community's rabbinical court ruled that women should not operate cars.[7] In a 2003 article Lisa W. Foderaro of The New York Times described New Square as "extremely insular" and said that the community's residents do not own televisions and radios.[8]


Young women, prior to entering marriage and before they have children work as teachers, secretaries, and bookkeepers, or they work in the New Square shopping center as cashiers and clerks. Some of the women, after having children, work as bookkeepers in their homes.[9]

Young men work as teachers, bus drivers, deliverymen, and store clerks. Some work as computer programmers or as craftsmen and entrepreneurs in the diamond industry. Many study in the kolel, a yeshiva for married men, and receive stipends to support their families.[9]

In 1970 the village had the lowest per capita income in New York State. In 1963 four persons received welfare due to illness. One dozen people received welfare in 1975. In 1992 the village administrator said that in 1975 about two thirds of the families received food stamps and Medicaid.[6]

According to the 2000 census, the median income for a household in the village was $12,162, and the median income for a family was $12,208. Males had a median income of $21,696 versus $29,375 for females. The per capita income for the village was $5,237. About 67.0% of families and 72.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 77.3% of those under age 18 and 14.7% of those age 65 or over.

2007 and 2008 reports from the State of New York stated that 89.8 of the village consisted of low-income and moderate-income residents.[10][11]


Location of village within the Town of Ramapo and Rockland County, New York.

New Square is located at 41°8′23″N 74°1′42″W / 41.13972°N 74.02833°W / 41.13972; -74.02833 (41.139745, -74.028197)[12].

According to the United States Census Bureau, the village has a total area of 0.4 square miles (0.9 km²), all of it land.


In 1963 the settlement had 85 families and a total of 620 inhabitants. By 1967 this increased to 126 families and 812 total residents. The community celebrated ten marriages in 1967. In 1970 the village had 1,156 inhabitants, with 57% of the population under the age of 18. The village had around one hundred births each year from 1971 to 1986. By that year the village had 140 one, two, and three family houses, a 45-unit low-rent apartment complex, 2,100 people, and 450 families with an average of 7 to 8 children per family. During the late 1970s the Town of Ramapo denied New Square's attempt to annex land. Six years later, in March 1982 New Square gained the legal right to annex 95 acres (380,000 m2) of land.[6]

New Square's population increased 77.5% between 1990 and 2000. In 2005 the village contained approximately 7830 residents; 1350 families, with 5.8 persons per family.[1] Robert Zeliger of Rockland Magazine described New Square in 2007 as "a densely packed haven where Hasidic residents live largely by their own customs and laws."[13] In November 2008 a new water tower serving New Square and the hamlet of Hillcrest opened, increasing residents' water pressure.[14]

As of the census[15] of 2000, there were 4,624 people, 820 households, and 786 families residing in the village. The population density was 12,811.8 people per square mile (4,959.3/km²). There were 838 housing units at an average density of 2,321.9 per square mile (898.8/km²). The racial makeup of the village was 96.95% White, 1.64% African American, 0.89% Asian, and 0.52% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.41% of the population. 87.26% speak Yiddish at home, 7.68% English, and 4.11% Hebrew.[16]

There were 820 households out of which 77.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 92.6% were married couples living together, 2.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 4.1% were non-families. 3.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 3.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 5.64 and the average family size was 5.81.

In the village the population was spread out with 60.5% under the age of 18, 13.9% from 18 to 24, 15.9% from 25 to 44, 7.1% from 45 to 64, and 2.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 14 years. For every 100 females there were 105.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 104.7 males.

A 2007 report stated that each year one half of the women between ages 18 and 25 gave birth.[11]

Government and infrastructure

A 2008 Election poster in front of a store in New Square entirely in Yiddish. The candidate names are transliterated into Yiddish.

As of 1992 the Village of New Square has a mayor, a mayor's assistant, a board of trustees, a village clerk, and a justice of the peace. The mayor's assistant performs the bulk of administrative work. The justice of the peace mainly handles harassment cases perpetrated by outsiders within New Square.[9]

The Hillcrest Fire Department (also known as the Moleston Fire District) provides fire protection services to New Square. In March 2007, the fire district met with Town of Ramapo supervisors and proposed removing New Square from its fire district after a February 7, 2007 fire that destroyed two buildings in New Square. New Square is the site of frequent fires, from intentionally set nuisance fires in dumpsters and piles of refuse, to far more serious structure fires that quickly consume homes due to their sub-code construction and local reluctance to report incidents in a timely manner. New Square loses at least two to three residences a year to fire. Further hazards stem from only one main access road- Washington Avenue- and the failure of some residents to yield to emergency vehicles, or to the crowd of people on the streets surrounding an incident. There also have been isolated cases of residents tampering with fire equipment while responders are on scene. The fire department felt concern about a lack of fire protection in buildings in New Square. On March 29 Ramapo town officials met fire district officials and fire department chiefs. On April 4 of that year the fire district announced that New Square would remain in the fire district. Christopher St. Lawrence, the Town of Ramapo supervisor, said that the town is considering a "public safety loan program" to help New Square residents install life safety devices such as smoke alarms and sprinkler systems.[17]

In 1989 New Square funded their own Health Clinic called Refuah Health Center.

New Square is within the 95th Assembly District in the New York State Assembly, which is represented by Ellen Jaffee.[18] New Square is within Senate District 38 in the New York State Senate, which is represented by David Carlucci.[19]

Community norms

There is a strong expectation that residents of New Square will conform to community norms, for example, by worshiping at the community's synagogue[20] and conforming to the Hasidic lifestyle.[21] Generally conformity by those who do not comply voluntarily is enforced by the powers of "the kehillah", a council appointed by the rebbe, whose members control most community institutions.[22] Those who have not conformed voluntarily have faced vigilante justice as exemplified by the New Square arson attack and other incidents. The rebbe has denounced this practice, saying: “The use of force and violence to make a point or settle an argument violates Skver’s most fundamental principles.”[22][23]


Although the town is within the East Ramapo Central School District, all children of New Square attend the local private Jewish PreK-12 schools, Avir Yaakov Boys School and Avir Yaakov Girls School, located in New Square.[24]


Fraudulent grant receivers

Four Hasidic men from New Square, Benjamin Berger, Jacob Elbaum, David Goldstein, and Kalmen Stern, created a nonexistent Jewish school to receive $30 million United States dollars of education grants, subsidies, and loans from the U.S. Federal Government.[25] The men were convicted in 1999. In October of that year all four men received prison sentences ranging from 30 months to 78 months. Two other suspects who were indicted left the United States.[26]

Hillary Clinton met with New Square-area Hasidic leaders as part of her senate campaign. Michael Duffy and Karen Tumulty of TIME said that "as far as anyone knows, that was a campaign event only; no pardons were mentioned." Hillary Clinton attended another session with the men, who wanted to see the four Hasidic leaders released. After Hillary Clinton was voted in as a senator, during the morning of December 22 Twersky and an associate visited Bill Clinton in the White House Map Room in Washington, D.C. and asked him to pardon the four men. Hillary Clinton attended the meeting; she said that she did not participate in it and did not discuss the meeting with her husband.[27]

On January 20, 2001 President of the United States Bill Clinton commuted the sentences of the men; Berger's sentence became two years and the other men each had 30 months. Federal prosecutors investigated the pardons to see if they were made in exchange for political support.[26] A 2001 ABC News article stated that some people wondered whether the pardons occurred as a kind of favor because the Village of New Square had voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton for her first senate term (1359 out of 1369 votes) or if the pardons occurred as part of a quid pro quo swap for votes.[25][27] Hillary Clinton said that she was not involved in the pardons and that her husband pardoned the men out of clemency.[26] In 2002 the prosecutors closed the investigation with no action.[28]

Neighborhood disputes

For several years there has been a dispute between followers of the Skverrer rebbe, (the founder of New Square and the religious leader of the Hassidic court living there, with over 2000 residents in his following) and a small group of residents praying in a separate synagogue. Large demonstrations where reported and culminated in two suspected arson cases. There are claims that political involvement, with the large community vote has affected police, municipal and law enforcement treatment in these cases.

Kiryas Square

Due to population growth in New Square, the Skver Hasidim have plans to expanded to a new village named Kiryas Square in the town of Spring Glen, New York.[29]

See also


  1. ^ a b Jewish Upstate Directory, 2005-2006
  2. ^ "Mystics in the Suburbs". TIME. March 3, 1961.,9171,897687,00.html. 
  3. ^ Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik, ed (2007). "New Square". Encyclopaedia Judaica. 15 (2 ed.). Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA. p. 189. 
  4. ^ a b Mintz, Jerome R. (1992). Hasidic People. A Place in the New World. Harvard University Press. pp. 199–200. 
  5. ^ New Square community profile
  6. ^ a b c Mintz, Jerome R. (1992). Hasidic People. A Place in the New World. Harvard University Press. pp. 202–203. 
  7. ^ Weiss, Steven I. (October 14, 2005). "Hasidic Village Keeps Women Out of the Driver’s Seat". The Jewish Daily Forward. 
  8. ^ Foderaro, Lisa (August 20, 2003). "New York Town Mourns a Generous Friend". The New York Times. 
  9. ^ a b c Mintz, Jerome R. (1992). Hasidic People. A Place in the New World. Harvard University Press. pp. 204–205. 
  10. ^ "V. of New Square Sidewalk and Curb Construction Project." New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal. 2008.
  11. ^ a b V. of New Square expansion of Aim B'yisroel." New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal. 2007.
  12. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  13. ^ Zeliger, Robert (August 31, 2007). "Culture clash". Rockland Magazine. 
  14. ^ Clarke, Suzan. "Water tower targets Hillcrest, New Square." The Journal News. November 17, 2008.
  15. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  16. ^ Modern Language Association, Data center results for New Square, New York. Retrieved on 2008-03-26.
  17. ^ "Fire service to New Square won’t be interrupted." The Journal News. April 4, 2007.
  18. ^ "Assemblymember Ellen Jaffee 95th Assembly District." New York State Assembly. Retrieved on November 14, 2008.
  19. ^ "Map of NY Senate District 38." Thomas P. Morahan. Retrieved on November 14, 2008.
  20. ^ Applebome, Peter (June 5, 2011). "In Hasidic Village, Attempted Murder Arrest Is Linked to Schism". The New York Times. Retrieved June 6, 2011. "a rabbinical court ruled that praying outside the synagogue was a serious violation of community rules." 
  21. ^ Deen, Shulem (May 30, 2011, issue of June 10, 2011). "What Is Really Happening in New Square?" (Opinion). The Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved June 6, 2011. "There had been rumors in the study hall that the student in question was in possession of items forbidden by the rules of our austere Hasidic lifestyle." 
  22. ^ a b Tobin, Andrew (June 8, 2011, issue of June 17, 2011). "New Square: Where Tradition And the Rebbe Rule: And Difference Comes at a Painful Cost". The Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved June 10, 2011. 
  23. ^ Shawn Cohen; Steve Lieberman (June 4, 2011). "Group of devotees enforces obedience to grand rebbe in New Square, residents say". The Journal News. Retrieved June 6, 2011. "Residents who defy this Hasidic enclave's spiritual leader say they live in fear of a band of thugs who sometimes violently defend his edicts" 
  24. ^ "Directory of Non-Public Schools." East Ramapo Central School District. Retrieved on November 13, 2008.
  25. ^ a b "Questions Mount in Pardon Saga." ABC News. February 4, 2001. 1.
  26. ^ a b c Anderson, Nick. "Hasidic Clemency Case Entangles Hillary Clinton." Los Angeles Times. February 24, 2001.
  27. ^ a b Duffy, Michael and Karen Tumulty. "Pardon Me, Boys." TIME. Sunday February 25, 2001. 1.
  28. ^ "Has Clinton been vindicated?." CNN. June 24, 2002.
  29. ^ Dube, Rebecca (August 12, 2009). "Hasidim Evacuate Catskills Camp Site, Leaving Plans for New Town in Doubt". The Jewish Daily Forward. 

External links

Coordinates: 41°08′N 74°01′W / 41.133°N 74.017°W / 41.133; -74.017

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