Judaica stores in Manhattan: A dying breed?

30th Apr 2019

Here in Israel, people rarely buy Judaica online. In fact, when Israelis ask me what line of work I'm in and I tell them I sell talleisim and tzitzis, they don't get it. "Is there really a demand for that online?" 

To explain the large demand I tell them that not all Jews outside of Israel live in New York. That if you live in San Francisco or San Antonio, in Oklahoma City or Nevada City, in downstate Illinois or upstate New York, it might be hard to find a decent Judaica store within a 20-minute drive. And in fact, we have a lot of tallis and tzitzis products (and options) you can't find even at a lot of full-service Judaica shops in in Brooklyn, Miami, Chicago, Denver, LA or Toronto.

But I always figured Manhattan was a different story. That you could find plenty of good Judaica suppliers. According to an article on a Chabad website, even Manhattan Jews are buying online and the shops are closing.

J. Levine Books & Judaica recently announced they will be going out of business at the end of May.

“The next generation doesn’t shop in stores,” Daniel Levine, the fourth-generation owner, told The New York Jewish Week. “That’s the nature of the world.” The store got started in 1890 in Vilkomir, Lithuania and then continued operations in Manhattan in 1905, initially as a pushcart on the Lower East Side.

Apparently the only major Judaica stores still doing business in Manhattan are West Side Judaica (which announced two years ago that they were shutting down, but then decided to stay open for business) and Judaica Classics on the Upper East Side. 

It could be that some would-be West Side Judaica customers are coming our way, because taking a quick glance at the addresses of our Manhattan customers, I'm seeing a lot of them hail from the Upper West Side.

What are our New York customers buying? A lot of cotton tzitzis, tzitzis for boys, tzitzis strings and wool tallis katan products, as well as some traditional tallits, and the occasional modern tallit.