The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

…like a veritable mendicant

with 2 comments

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Facile and easily led, your humble narrator was nevertheless in Sunset Park recently, attempting to pry information on the enigmatic “turn of the last century merchant trader” named Gilman (whose grave I’ve been searching for at Calvary Cemetery here in the heart of our Newtown Pentacle) out of a hysterical levantine who had refused my offer of electronic correspondence. This man, a member of some dire cultic offshoot of the Hasidic movement whose disturbing interpretation of the Kabballist mysteries has rendered them outcasts in their own communities, operates from a dust choked office housed in a former industrial warehouse.

from wikipedia

As compared with other Jewish movements, Hasidic Judaism tends to focus on the role of the Rebbe as an elevated spiritual leader and intercessor, a renewed emphasis on prayer, cameraderie, and deeds of kindness, and the study of tangible mystical texts. This replaced Talmudic legalism as the main traditional activity, and offered the unlearned closeness to God through joy and fervour in daily life. It sought to add to required standards of ritual observance, while relaxing others where inspiration predominated. Its communal gatherings celebrated soulful song and storytelling as forms of mystical devotion. Each dynasty follows its own principles; thus Hasidic Judaism is not one movement, but a collection of separate individual groups with some commonality. There are approximately 30 larger Hasidic groups, and several hundred minor Hasidic groups exist. Though there is no one version of Hasidism, individual Hasidic groups often share with each other fundamental philosophy, worship styles, dress, songs, etc.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

His national inheritance was Dutch. Fleeing the inquisition during the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries, his forebears found themselves in Bruges, and after that noble city’s Zwin Channel silted up- Amsterdam. Staunch advocates of the Hebrew religion, this family nevertheless adopted a Dutch name- Suydam- and founded a business that imported Syriac, Greek, and Sufi religious texts to the merchant city. Their trade in Christian and Pagan scrolls and books allowed them access to ancient caches of Hebrew mysticism which had been captured, explored, and expanded upon by the Mohammedans.

from wikipedia

The Sephardim (so-called Spanish Jews) had been expelled from Spain and Portugal years earlier, but many remained in the Iberian peninsula, practising Judaism in secret (see crypto-Jews or Marranos). The newly independent Dutch provinces provided an ideal opportunity for the crypto-Jews to re-establish themselves and practise their religion openly, and they migrated, most notably to Amsterdam. Collectively, they brought trading influence to the city as they established in Amsterdam.

In 1593 these Marranos arrived in Amsterdam after having been refused admission to Middelburg and Haarlem. These Jews were important merchants and persons of great ability. They labored assiduously in the cause of the people and contributed materially to the prosperity of the country. They became strenuous supporters of the house of Orange and were in return protected by the stadholder. At this time the commerce of Holland was increasing; a period of development had arrived, particularly for Amsterdam, to which Jews had carried their goods and from which they maintained their relations with foreign lands. Thus they had connections with the Levant and with Morocco. The Emperor of Morocco had an ambassador at The Hague named Samuel Pallache (1591-1626), through whose mediation, in 1620, a commercial understanding was arrived at with the Barbary States.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A branch of the family moved to New York shortly after the American Civil War, and are mentioned as living on Martense Street in an 1890 census. Near the Borough Hall, on Clinton Street, was where the family business operated from a parlor room. They provided Jewish religious and funerary goods imported from North Africa and the Ottoman empire, and were a shipping address for certain medieval copies of ancient scrolls which had been hidden away from the inquisitors when Moorish Iberia gave way to Catholic Spain. A side line for the Suydams was found in the 19th and 20th century fashion trends that demanded far eastern textiles and faux ceramics in the adornment of domestic rooms.

from wikipedia

The first Jews to come to New York arrived in what became New York City around September in 1654. They arrived on a ship from Recife, a city in what became Brazil. There were 23 Jewish men, woman, and children refugees among the passengers on the boat, whose captain was Jacques de la Motthe.

There was initial hostility and Peter Stuyvesant attempted to evict the Jews from his town. Jewish stockholders in Amsterdam prevailed on the Dutch West India Company to order the governor to let them remain. In 1655, a few Sephardic Jewish families immigrated to the city with a Torah scroll, possibly indicating the start of a private synagogue. Stuyvesant, determined to drive the Jewish settlers out of New Amsterdam, made efforts to restrict their trade, prohibited their owning property, and taxed them to pay for the town watch. In 1655, the Jews applied for a plot of land for a cemetery, but the governor denied the request, pointing out that no one had yet died. The following year the death of one of the Jews compelled him to designate “a little hook of land” beyond the town wall. This site has long since disappeared.

Stuyvesant’s recalcitrance and the extreme cold of New Amsterdam’s winters led the Sephardic Jews to depart for Amsterdam, London, or the Caribbean, where relatives were better established. By 1663, the Torah scroll had been returned to Amsterdam. In 1664 a large British fleet forced Stuyvesant to surrender without firing a shot, and all residents who remained in what was now New York were required to sign an oath of allegiance to the English crown.[1] The one Jewish name on the list was Asser Levy’s. He seems to have maintained the only Jewish presence of record in British New York until he was joined in 1680 by relatives from Amsterdam. Levy’s death on February 1, 1681/82 and burial in the old cemetery unquestionably led Sephardi Joseph Bueno de Mesquita to purchase a separate burying ground for his own family and for a growing group of Sephardim in the community.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The European part of the family was exterminated during the genocidal rampage of the last known Antichrist during the 1940’s, and the Suydams faded into Brooklyn obscurity during the 1950’s. The man I contacted, named Ari Suydam, is the last of his line. The old Dutch business records were lost, along with a cache of valuable paintings and other rare collectibles (including the legendary De Vermiis Mysteries, and a fragment of the Pnakotic Manuscripts- supposedly), whose recovery via international law and United Nations treaty is the man’s sole obsession. A significant amount of the documentation about a critical phase in the development of Long Island City was lost in a courthouse fire in 1904, including the critical location of Gilman’s Grave at Calvary.

from wikipedia

In 1939 there were some 140,000 Dutch Jews living in the Netherlands, among them some 25,000 German-Jewish refugees who had fled Germany in the 1930s (other sources claim that some 34,000 Jewish refugees entered the Netherlands between 1933 and 1940, mostly from Germany and Austria)…

…In 1945 only about 35,000 of them were still alive. The exact number of “full Jews” who survived the Holocaust is estimated to be 34,379 (of whom 8,500 were part of a mixed marriage and thus spared from deportation and possible death in the Nazi concentration camps); the number of “half Jews” who were present in the Netherlands at the end of the Second World War in 1945 is estimated to be 14,545, the number of “quarter Jews” 5,990

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Suydam, it is rumored, has a unique ledger in his possession that contains the otherwise immolated information sought. Unfortunately, a bizarre and exclusionary form of an other wise wholesome orthodoxy called Hasidism that the man adheres to will not allow him to deal with anyone who is not Jewish. When informed that I was raised Jewish, Bar Mitzvah and all, Suydam scornfully informed me that I wasn’t Jewish enough and ordered me to vacate his premise. He said that there were certain things that only Kohanim should know.

Thwarted, I left and walked out into the sunset.

from wikipedia

The kohanim formed a holy order. For the purpose of protecting them against ritual defilement, the Torah imposed on them the following rules for ritual purity, which are still maintained to a certain degree in Orthodox Judaism.

  • Kohanim are forbidden to come in contact with dead bodies, nor are they permitted to perform the customary mourning rites. They are commanded, however, to become defiled for their closest relatives: father, mother, brother, unmarried sister, child or wife.
  • A kohen is forbidden to enter any house or enclosure, or approach any spot, in which a dead body, or part of a dead body, may be found.
  • Practical examples of these prohibitions include: not entering a cemetery or attending a funeral; not being under the same roof (i.e. in a home or hospital) as a dismembered organ. The exact rules and regulations of defilement are quite complex, but a cursory rule of thumb is that they may not enter a room with a dead person or come within a few feet of the body. Proximity to the corpse of a non-Jew is less serious and may only be an issue if actual contact is established.
  • A male kohen may not marry a divorcee, a prostitute, a convert, or a dishonored woman.[14] Any kohen who enters into such a marriage loses the entitlements of his priestly status while in that marriage. The kohen is not allowed to “choose to forego his status” and marry a woman prohibited to him.
  • According to the Talmud, if a kohen marries in disregard of the above prohibitions, his marriage is still effective. Any children born of the union are legitimate and not mamzer. However, these children are termed chalal (“disqualified”) and lose their kohen status permanently.
  • The Kohen Gadol must marry a virgin.
  • During the period of the Holy Temple, kohanim were required to abstain from wine and all strong drink while performing their priestly duties.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Third Avenue is dominated by the steel of the Gowanus Expressway where it joins the Belt Parkway. Fourth Avenue and beyond seemed to be a residential angle between neighborhoods, an immigrant clime whose residents displayed neither sin pitted countenances of old world inheritance nor sullen malignancy. Many eating establishments were observed, and a tremendous amount of vehicular traffic. Second Avenue is where you’ll find the remains of the Bush Terminal, which is the second largest interior space I’ve ever experienced. The cyclopean summit is held by the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, so large that it forms its own weather system.

from wikipedia

After the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, I-278 continues into Brooklyn on the Gowanus Expressway. Immediately after the bridge, the freeway comes to an eastbound exit and westbound entrance for the Belt Parkway. After this, a full interchange serves 92nd Street at which point I-278 becomes a single-level six-lane freeway. Along this road, one of the eastbound lanes serves as a high-occupancy vehicle lane.[9] The Gowanus Expressway continues northeast into urban residential neighborhoods and reaches an eastbound interchange at Fort Hamilton Parkway and a westbound interchange at 86th Street. Turning more to the north, I-278 comes to a partial interchange at 65th Avenue, with an exit eastbound and entrance westbound. The road curves northwest at this point and comes to a directional interchange providing access to 3rd Avenue and the Belt Parkway.[3][4] The Gowanus Expressway turns northeast again at this interchange and continues along an elevated alignment through urban residential and commercial areas.[3] Along this viaduct, I-278 has interchanges with 38th Street/39th Street and the western terminus of NY 27 (Prospect Expressway). After the NY 27 interchange, the freeway widens to eight lanes and heads north, coming to an interchange with the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel approach (I-478), with the exit ramps splitting from the median of I-278. Westbound access to the tunnel is provided by the Hamilton Avenue exit.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Gilman… where is Gilman?

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 16, 2010 at 5:38 pm

2 Responses

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  1. [...] New York. I have consulted with asiatic mystics in Manhattan’s Chinatown, visited a heretical Kabbalist in Brooklyn, and have drawn the ire of certain extant allies of the dead man whose influence and reach extend [...]

  2. [...] New York. I have consulted with asiatic mystics in Manhattan’s Chinatown, visited a heretical Kabbalist in Brooklyn, and have drawn the ire of certain extant allies of the dead man whose influence and reach extend [...]


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