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Surprising truth about Billburg & Greenpoint: thick with religious faith and practice

There are over 300 religious organizations in the area. Part 2 of A Journey through Williamsburg-Greenpoint religions.

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Faith in Williamsburg-Greenpoint. Photo: Tony Carnes/A Journey through NYC religions

Faith in Williamsburg-Greenpoint. Photo: Tony Carnes/A Journey through NYC religions

What is the most representative of Williamsburg-Greenpoint area? An art gallery in Billburg? A design shop? Or a forty-five hundred student Jewish high school? Huh?

Twenty-six religious murals and striking instances of outdoor graffiti etch out a different picture than we are accustomed to seeing in the popular representations of the environs of Williamsburg and Greenpoint.

There are over 300 religious organizations in the area, which the city administration designates as Brooklyn Community District 1. Artistic and cultural organizations are prolific but numbering 126 in 2011, according to the Brooklyn Arts Council, they amount to less than half the number of religious organizations.

After seven and half years of daily learning together the Talmud, a very long commentary on the Bible, Williamsburg's Orthdox Jews madly celebrated the completion of the epic journey of reading. A Hassidic Satmar orchestra and choir played at one of the big celebrations. The next celebration is scheduled to take place on January 4, 2020.

So, why not count many of these religious groups as artistic and cultural organizations? Maybe, we should. All of them produce or motivate a lot of culture and arts. There are those murals and graffiti art that we mentioned. There is a pastor and wife who have cut pretty interesting music albums, and several other religious people also have created striking music. Is there anyone who doesn’t get musically inspired when listening to Sufjan Stevens’ Christmas albums?

There are ten faith-based art galleries and stores featuring artistic products. There are three faith-based gardens (sad to say, a fourth, a delightful garden next to a yoga center has closed). There are ten faith-based bookstores, one religious newspaper,  and several design and music studios which are at least partly motivated by religious values. And there are an uncounted number of solo religious entrepreneurs producing culture and art. We will feature a few of them in the coming weeks.

Next: What are the main religious groups in Williamsburg-Greenpoint?

Also, see Illustrated Explorer's Guide Williamsburg & Greenpoint.

  • I hope you write a book with many illustrations - Actually, a guide to religious sites in the city.

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