Gentrification and Retro-Ashkenaz: Back To The Future! ג’נטריפיקציה ורטרו-אשכנז: חזרה אל העתיד

In recent years, gentrification has become very popular , as well as one of  the ‘hottest’ trends in real estate, and living in general. In places around the world, old, run down areas and buildings, often in inner cities, have been rediscovered, renovated, improved, and resettled, in the process greatly increasing in valuation. People have gotten tired of continually moving further away from the city or city center, to more modern and newer developments. They have come to realize that older buildings and places can possess considerable charm and value, exceeding that of newer structures and locations at times. And that is even before factoring in the convenience of being closer to the center of things, rather than on the periphery.  In the wake of these trends, urban living has become popular again, and suburbs and exurbs have lost some of their shine.

People have come to realize that newer is not always better, and that the polish of old, solid quality can outshine more modern glitter, bringing about a sorely needed correction in perspective.

Spiritual Gentrification

In the spiritual realm as well, gentrification is something that deserves serious consideration. Instead of continually looking to newer ideas and customs, older and time tested practices of our ancestors and previous generations should be reexamined with a fresh eye, discarding preconceived notions that they are outdated, irrelevant, and inferior, to their newer competitors. Those who do so will often find themselves richly rewarded. It might take somewhat of a pioneering spirit to buck some current, modern trends at first, but, after a while, the vintage minhogim and teachings can become popular and mass movements, as they were in the past. We see stirrings of such trends developing now, with the growing interest in מנהגים ישנים מדורות קדמונים, as evinced in contemporary seforim, shiurim, and articles.

Practically Speaking

If a tzibbur is in need of some spiritual reinvigoration, they might consider incorporating some ‘spiritual gentrification’ into their lives. Trying some old minhogim of מסורת אשכנז, such as reciting kedushah in the derech of old Ashkenaz, saying kaddish the old Ashkenaz way,  singing לדוד ברוך on מוצאי שבת, and so on. The old minhogim may take some time to get used to for those new to them – like fine wine, they can be somewhat of an acquired/learned taste. But once you savor their special flavor, it can be addictive.

השיבנו ה’ אליך ונשובה חדש ימינו כקדם

5 Responses to “Gentrification and Retro-Ashkenaz: Back To The Future! ג’נטריפיקציה ורטרו-אשכנז: חזרה אל העתיד”

  1. Reuven Brauner Says:


    Yasher Koach on your site and articles. Enjoy everything you do.

  2. Elli Fischer (@Adderabbi) Says:

    There can be a combination as well. Perhaps congregations can pick specific elements (יוצרות, קדושתאות וכו) to study and then incorporate into the davening.

    • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

      Hi –

      Thanks for commenting.

      Yes, study and understanding should definitely be part of any such endeavor. The idea is not to have more robotic observance, aka מצות אנשים מלומדה. G-d knows we have enough of that already. 🙂 We want to make things more meaningful and spiritual!

      As was mentioned in a post a few years ago, based on a shiur by רבש”ה, centuries ago in Frankfurt am Main, there were groups set up to study piyyutim – or yotzeros if you wish – to enable meaningful recitation. Good to remember as we approach the season of the ארבע פרשיות, one of the high seasons of piyyutim of the year.

  3. How Not To Create A Custom - Torah Musings Says:

    […] The creation of a new ceremony is religiously dangerous. Neither Siegel nor I are Socrates, so to speak. How can we dare to compose prayers and rituals, pretending that we can access the deepest meanings of Jewish symbols and texts? This is especially true when the new practice is redundant. We already have the tools in Ashkenazic tradition; we only need to take them out of the toolbox. We move forward by embracing our past. Chadeish yameinu ke-kedem. […]

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