The neighborhood is home to one of the largest Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish populations in the United States. Religious tradition and ritual touch nearly every aspect of neighborhood life. During Sukkot, sidewalks and apartment balconies sprouted sukkahs, the traditional wooden booths commemorating the structures that ancient Israelites lived in after their exodus from Egypt.
Borough Park’s commercial strips, 13th and 16th Avenues, are lined with independently owned businesses, many of them religious-themed. The few chain stores, Rite Aid, Duane Reade, the Children’s Place are closed on Saturdays in observance of the Jewish Sabbath. Although Orthodox Jews make up the majority of Borough Park’s residents, other groups are represented such as Italian and Irish populations, have ended up acquiring an appreciation of Orthodox rituals.
Bounded by Fort Hamilton Parkway to the west, 60th Street to the south, McDonald Avenue and Bay Parkway to the east, and McDonald Avenue to the north, the neighborhood is home to more than 300 religious institutions. Most are Jewish: yeshivas and synagogues abound, some of them huge, their exteriors bearing Hebrew signage, others smaller and less noticeable.
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Untitled, ca. 1890, V1990.40.3; Photography Collection; Brooklyn Historical Society, Cowenhoven Lane (now 54th St.) looking west towards Sands House and St. Jude’s Parish House, Borough Park, Brooklyn
Borough Park Club House postcard sent 1906