The ultimate Jewish guide to Brooklyn, NYC: What to see, eat & do

The Brooklyn Bridge (Photo: Shutterstock)

The ultimate Jewish guide to Brooklyn, NYC: What to see, eat & do

Brooklyn is home to cutting-edge restaurants, unique thrift stores, and fun nightlife, but do you know about its many Jewish offerings across the borough?

Editor’s note: This article is part of our series on travel guides to your favorite destinations. Check out our Vienna, Budapest, Berlin, Kraków, Toronto, Milan, Rome, and Manhattan guides, and look out for guides to other cities coming soon.

Brooklyn has a rich Jewish history. The late 19th century saw an influx of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe to New York City, predominantly to the Lower East Side and Harlem in Manhattan. In the early 20th century, the building of bridges and subway lines made it easier for people to move to the outer boroughs, like Brooklyn. 

By 1910, Brooklyn was home to about 230,000 residents, living in neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Brownsville. Less than 15 years later, Brooklyn had eclipsed Manhattan as the borough with the largest Jewish population, one that continues to grow and contribute to the social fabric of New York City today. 

As more tourists visit this hip and happening borough, Unpacked’s got the recommendations for exploring its thriving Jewish scene, from cultural tours you can’t find anywhere else in the city to its vibrant food scene and more.

What to see

The Living Torah Museum / Torah Animal World

The Living Torah Museum (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Don’t just learn history — see it, feel it, and even wear it! Located in a Borough Park townhouse, the Living Torah Museum is where history comes to life.

Rabbi Shaul Shimon Deutsch’s impressive collection of Biblical and Talmudic archaeological artifacts allows visitors to see a real chanukiah from the time of the Maccabees, and even wear an ancient Greek helmet.

If you’re looking to dive even deeper into the biblical world, head over to Rabbi Deutsch’s other exhibit in the same building, Torah Animal World, which is full of taxidermy animals mentioned in the Torah and Talmud. 

Note: These museums can be entered by appointment only.

Holocaust Memorial Park

Brooklyn Holocaust Memorial Park (Photo: Wally Gobetz via Flickr)

In the neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay, a sculpture of granite topped with a steel eternal flame keeps the memories alive of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. 

Holocaust Memorial Park is the only public park in New York City dedicated to this tragic chapter in history. After World War II, many refugees and Holocaust survivors settled in Sheepshead Bay and its surrounding neighborhoods. Pay your respects and honor their memory by visiting this beautiful park. 

Brooklyn Seltzer Museum 

Brooklyn Seltzer Boys (Photo via Flickr)

Experience the 2,500-year-old history of seltzer water with this Jewish family-run business. 

The Brooklyn Seltzer Museum is located within the Cypress Hills factory of the Brooklyn Seltzer Boys, the last remaining seltzer works in the city, which used to contain dozens of facilities. Learn how the Gomberg family makes the popular bubbly beverage and try an egg cream, a soda made popular by Yiddish theater actors in the 19th century. 

What to do

The Jewish Children’s Museum

Outside of the Jewish Children’s Museum in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. (Photo: Jim Henderson/Wikipedia Commons)

The activities in Jewish Brooklyn are endless. If you are bringing kids on your trip, the Jewish Children’s Museum in Crown Heights is the perfect place for fun, interactive lessons in Jewish history and culture. Exhibits include taking a stroll through a shtetl replica, and crawling through a giant loaf of challah.

Jewish Walking Tours

Overlooking a beautiful Manhattan skyline, just south of the hipsters in Williamsburg is the most concentrated neighborhood of Hasidic Jews outside of Israel. Step into another world with Frieda Vizel, a former member of the Satmar community in Brooklyn, as she immerses you in a culture full of Yiddish and centuries-old customs.

JewishBrooklyn brings the daily customs of Haredi life to the forefront on a tour of Crown Heights, led by a member of the community. Visit the world-famous 770 Synagogue, the headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement; meet a Torah scribe; and, depending on the time of year, visit a matzah bakery.

Chabad Headquarters in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

Listen to live klezmer music

The Brooklyn Conservatory of Music Klezmer Ensemble frequently has performances of traditional Ashkenazi tunes, including jam sessions and Yiddish sing-alongs by various featured musicians. 

Klezmer quintet at Moynihan Train Hall, New York City (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

What to eat

The kosher scene

Over the years, Brooklyn has become the must-visit borough for foodies and is in no short supply of kosher restaurants. GRÜIT by Abe’s is a laid-back, innovative gastropub serving up flavorful dishes like the pastrami burger. Izzy’s Brooklyn Smokehouse boasts about being the first kosher BBQ spot in Brooklyn.

If you’re in the mood for steak and a more upscale ambience, try Yakar Kosher Steakhouse, where the meat is dry-aged on-site, or Bison and Bourbon

In the mood for dairy? Bass and Bourbon won’t disappoint, with dishes from grilled branzino to baked ziti.

Classic New York fare

If you think Manhattan is the only borough full of amazing bagel shops, think again. Shelsky’s is a standout shop for Ashkenazi nosh, like smoked fish, whitefish salad, and kettle-boiled bagels. Greenberg’s Bagels puts a fresh spin on the classic bagel sandwich, like their Shakshuka Breakfast Sando with shakshuka sauce, a fried egg, and a hash brown on a bagel.

For more of a fusion flair, Shalom Japan is a love affair of Jewish and Japanese flavors (literally — the restaurant is a collaboration between owners and chefs Aaron Israel and Sawako Okochi, who are married!). With dishes like matzah ball ramen and wagyu pastrami sandwiches, this restaurant proves why it’s a favorite for both food influencers and locals.

Israeli food

Celebrity chef Michael Solomonov’s Laser Wolf — named for the iconic “Fiddler on the Roof” character — is an Israeli grillhouse with spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline. The Michelin guide-approved restaurant was named as one of the best in the world. For a cozier and romantic feel, try Miriam or Miss Ada.

Where to spend Shabbat 

Chabad has many locations throughout Brooklyn to accommodate Shabbat meals and services. For those between 18-32, Moishe House also has multiple locations throughout Brooklyn and is often hosting Shabbat events. 

Challah at a Shabbat dinner (Photo: Moishe House/Wikipedia Commons)

Synagogues like Congregation Beth Elohim and Romemu Brooklyn are also open to the public and offer Friday night and Saturday morning services. 

Some communities — like Brooklyn Jews and Nolita Minyan — are specifically for young professionals, and often host services and social events.

When will you be visiting Brooklyn? Let us know on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok!

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