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Early Stirring

The acquisition of 800 acres of woods in 1974 in the town of Monroe in Orange County marked the beginning of Kiryas Joel. Leaders of the Williamsburg community, headed by the late Leopold (Leibish) Lefkowitz, set out to build housing for some of the lower income families in Wiliamsburg, whose large families required more space than the Brooklyn community afforded them. Within three years, the population of Kiryas Joel reached 525, which gave the residents the right to incorporate as a municipality. In 1977, the Village of Kiryas Joel was born.

Life was not easy for the early settlers. The fledgling infrastructure was a far cry from the established Williamsburg neighborhood. Some of the necessities of religious life were still lacking, including sufficient kosher shopping and schools for every age group. Getting acquainted with the neighbors, who were faced with this new experience, was another challenge for the new suburbanites. As was always customary when a new Jewish community was established, the Grand Rabbi’s first order of business was to create an educational system and communal organizations. Jewish education is the focal point of any organized religious Jewish community and Kiryas Joel was quick to embark on the establishment of a network of schools.

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