Was the Rebbe zy”a trying to replicate a shtetl from the heim or an out-of-town Williamsburg???
Mr. Felberman (the Government relations coordinator) said KJ has a much higher population density than other villages in upstate NY. In other Orange County Villages a one family house is built on 1-3 acres of land, whereas in KJ up to 15 apartments are built on one acre!
…founded in 1974 comprising a mere handful of houses today it is home to more than 22,000 Satmar Khasidm…about 4000 families.
Eastern European shtetl’ekh , at least any that the Rebbe could possibly have known experientially, were small and diverse. Read any volume of the Yizkor Buch literature and you’ll find that the typical shtet’l boasted shteiblakh of MANY khasidic groups and had many secular parties including in many cases (SHUDDER) Zionist youth groups like Betar and HaShomer Hatzair. They also had non-Jewish residents albeit almost always as a minority and living in separate neighborhoods. Besides which, on market days when peasants would arrive from the countryside there was a daylong interaction between Jews and gentiles and men and women. and so in many significant ways interbellum stetlakh of eastern Europe were far less insular and monolithic than KJ.
In most cases the Jewish population of a shtet’l did not exceed 2500 souls. Once you got 3-4000 Jews living in a place you were generally talking about a Shtodt= city or town NOT a shtet’l.
And it seems that there are no plans for decentralization or more KJ type villages elsewhere. Square OTOH want to crates a second Square-Town on the site of the old Homowack. It seems that the only thing the town elders have in mind is expanding the current KJ.
Mr. Gedalye Szegdin (KJ Village administrator) said “They will have a housing problem because according to calculations the KJ population doubles every 11 years. This means that in a little over 22 years the population will be close to 100,000. "
Presuming that the current Rebbe and those in the community setting policy are hewing the Rebbes original vision then it seems clear that the dream of this so-called shtet’l was not to escape the blights of urbanity most people think of when imagining a rural village. No one moves to KJ to escape rush hour traffic, double and triple parking, the clamor of the EL trains, the tenement style architecture, humid summers and slushy winters. No one moves there with dreams of the split level ranch homes, a vegetable garden or farm animals in the backyard, good hunting and fly-fishing. No… the main attraction vis-à-vis Williamsburg or Boro Park seems to be the utter absence of Goyim, khasidim of other sects (non-khasidic Jews have long ago fled Williamsburg and Boro Park is increasingly Litvak-rein as well) or the stray runner or cyclist from artsy-Williamsburg clad in a tank-top and shorts.
Perhaps KJ is a materialization of the Rebbe zy”a’s dreams or perhaps it isn’t. But the facts on the ground point to a developing city that may or may not (depending on ones POV) incorporate the most valuable elements of shtet’l life but which is a far cry from an actual shtet’l.
While it is the height of presumption for me to opine…what’s a blog for if not to be a pundit in isolation? And so I conclude that KJ has failed the Rebbe’s vision. It is too large and insufficiently insular. A smaller village (or a string of 20-50 such villages) limited to a Khasidic elite willing to live by even higher khumra standards than the urban rank and file would’ve more in line with his dream. While a monolithic population of 100,000 will be a pretty impressive fiefdom and power base for the current Rebbe it will be too large for even an absolute monarch to micromanage and demand the highest standards from. I imagine that the Rebbe zy”a’s dream was exclusively for ריבוי כבוד שמים not for creating more גלילות for his great-nephew. So while it may not be his nightmare it can hardly be called his dream.