The Ex-Hasidic Jew Who Gives Tours of Her Former Community
As part of our "Creator of the Week" series, get to know the smart, creative, and insightful Frieda Vizel.
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Frieda Vizel, the fifth of 15 children, was born into a Satmar Hasidic Jewish community in New York.
Satmar is one of world’s largest Hasidic Jewish dynasties — characterized by extreme conservatism, complete rejection of modern culture, and fierce anti-Zionism.1
Some 12 years ago, at the age of 25 and married with a son, Frieda decided to excommunicate herself from Satmar Hasidic Judaism.
“I’m not angry at this community,” she made clear. “I find it to be very unique, but it wasn’t for me. There are people who have lifestyles that are so completely different from us, and we can look at it without passing judgment and understand that they live differently because otherwise, we’d have a very boring and homogeneous world.”2
Frieda started a business to offer walking tours in Hasidic Jewish Brooklyn, guiding participants on an intimate discovery of the insular enclave of which she was once a part. As of 2022, Frieda was the only licensed tour guide in New York City doing so.
In general, and understandably, Hasidic Jews don’t like tourists in their communities because they feel like monkeys in a zoo when people come and take pictures, but when Frieda leads a tour, “it’s done in a way more positive way,” a member of the community said.3
Thousands of people from across the world have taken her tours, including those just across the bridge in Manhattan. Surprisingly, though, very few are Jewish.
“I found that a lot of Jews have a very loaded perspective on the Hasidic community,” Frieda said. “I have heard things like, ‘They make us look bad,’ or ‘They are causing antisemitism.’”
After the Netflix hit drama series “Unorthodox” — based on the true story of another woman who decided to leave a Satmar Hasidic Jewish community — traffic spiked on Frieda’s walking tours website.
But then the pandemic emerged, lockdowns took effect, and she was completely restricted from guiding in-person tours. So what did Frieda do next? She filmed a video tour and published it on her YouTube channel, providing a taste of the experience for a world that suddenly couldn’t travel.
While the pandemic subsided, Frieda’s YouTube channel has taken off — to the tune of 35,000 subscribers. As our Creator of the Week, we’re excited to share with you some of her top videos, including:
A Tour Inside a Hasidic Jewish Home
How do Hasidic Jews make money?
What is kosher technology?
The 10 Weirdest Hasidic Foods
What’s the role of Satmar Hasidic women?