Mrs. Tova Saks, one of the first to move to Haverstraw in November 2016, recalls how the community got started. “We were looking to buy a house in Monsey, and we were having trouble finding something affordable. We definitely wanted to stay in the Monsey area — my grandparents are [among] the original Monsey residents and that is where I grew up. I love Monsey! Nevertheless, we were renting and were not sure where we could afford to buy.
“Mrs. Tirtza Beer of Q Home Sales, with whom we were working, called me and suggested a beautiful area not far from Monsey called Haverstraw. She noticed that there were several houses that were not selling, and she thought that she would be able to bring a few families together and start a new community.”
Mrs. Beer gathered a group of about 15 families who were interested and brought them together for a meeting. All seemed compatible with each other. With siyatta diShmaya, it worked out for most of the families to buy homes within a few months of each other. The Haverstraw community was born.
For the first few months, it was a bit lonely and difficult. Mrs. Saks recalls, “Shortly before we bought our house, my parents were at the Agudah Convention, where presenters were saying that people should be moving out of town. While this is not exactly out of town, I did have to get over the fact that I was not walking distance from my parents. It was hard, but my parents were encouraging, and it turned out far better than we expected.”
At the beginning, before each Shabbos, the pioneering families were in touch with each other to see if anyone was going away for Shabbos, to ensure that there would be a minyan. Often, families would invite relatives and other guests to spend Shabbos at their homes to help make the minyan. However, all that is history, as the community has grown by leaps and bounds. Now, there are over 100 families living in Haverstraw.
“At first, there were many local residents who were trying to sell their homes but could not,” recalls Mrs. Beer. “I remember when I first came to Haverstraw, and a man was literally chasing my car. ‘Are you a realtor? Do you have any buyers for me?’ he practically begged. Another time, I was doing an inspection and another homeowner asked me, ‘Maybe you have someone for me?’ Now there are more buyers than there are sellers, and obviously, the property values are going up (although they are still significantly less than in Monsey). The locals realize this, and it is to their benefit. They are getting very good value for their homes.”
“Every Yom Tov, you see the difference,” says Mrs. Saks. “I remember the first Chanukah, shortly after we moved in. There were no other menoros in the community. Now, our family goes for a drive, and we see so many houses with menoros! For the first Simchas Torah, we all left and went to relatives, as there were not enough people to make a minyan. Now our shul is bursting at the seams on Simchas Torah. On Shabbos, my initial dream was to see people in the streets walking back and forth to shul. Baruch Hashem, that dream has been realized. There is a whole different atmosphere, with frequent kiddushim on Shabbos, the streets filled with people walking to and fro, and the children playing outside. Purim has become very lively, and every year on Sukkos, there are more and more sukkos. On Shavuos, Rabbi Eliezer Krohn had an all-night program for the children, with stories and candies. The kids really loved it!”
Two shuls have been formed in Haverstraw. Khal Bnei Torah, the larger shul, has begun the process of acquiring a property and constructing a building. Beis Medrash of Haverstraw, the smaller shul, is under the leadership of Rabbi Yehuda Leib Reidel. An eruv has been constructed, and Avos Ubanim, Pirchei and Bnos have been established.
There is a very warm community feeling among the families in Haverstraw. The women get together for an annual melaveh malkah, which has been growing each year. Until now, it has been hosted in a local home, but pretty soon, it will probably be necessary to rent a hall! Whenever someone has a baby, the other mothers step up to help, arranging meals for about two weeks.
They also maintain a texting group, and if one member is in need of something, she can send out a text requesting that item, and within short order usually receives several responses. This is especially helpful considering the distance from the shopping opportunities in Monsey. However, more and more shopping is becoming available in Haverstraw. In particular, the community members are looking forward to the opening of a kosher supermarket in the area in the near future. There already is a women’s clothing store, fleishig restaurant, and a pizza shop in nearby Pomona. In addition, gemachs have been set up for many items.
The children of Haverstraw families attend school in Monsey, and busing is graciously provided by the local school district. However, due to the relatively small number of students, all the schools’ students are combined on the same bus (with separate buses for boys and girls), which at times creates complications due to conflicting schedules. Nevertheless, the school board has been very accommodating and tries to work things out as smoothly as possible.
Aesthetically, Haverstraw is a beautiful area, with scenic views of the Pomona Mountains. It is an ideal area for children, with plenty of wide-open, grassy areas where they can run around and ride their bicycles.
“It is a very special, beautiful community, with a core group of bnei Torah,” comments Mrs. E., another community member. “However, you do have to be prepared to drive. For instance, if your son misses his school bus, there is no easy way to get him to yeshivah. Either you have to drive him or call a taxi. Playdates with friends in Monsey are more complicated to arrange, and if you have high school children who want to study with friends, you will definitely be in the car a lot.”
The community is working on developing relationships with local councilmembers. The police department has been very helpful; after recent events in Monsey, they sent security guards to the shul and patrol cars to drive around on Shabbos.
One disadvantage facing the residents in the new territory is obtaining special services for the children. One mother explains that when her child needed Title I services, because the child’s school was in Monsey, the school was only equipped to provide for East Ramapo residents, not for North Rockland, where Haverstraw is located.
Mrs. L. moved to Haverstraw about a year and a half ago, to one of the more outlying areas. “We moved because of the cheap pricing, and we heard the crowd was nice (which it is). There is a very warm feeling here — when someone moves in, we all know about it and welcome the new family. I am still waiting for immediate neighbors, but we are really very much of a community, and I am very happy with the move!”
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