Hasidic to hipster: Preston Hollow mom’s new play tackles NYC culture clash

Miki Bone: Chris Arrant
Miki Bone: Chris Arrant

Far from her Preston Hollow home, Miki Bone and her husband walked the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where she became fascinated with what she saw before her. Hasidic Jews and hipsters walked parallel to each other, and that impression evolved into a painting and ultimately her play, “Division Avenue.” The play is about Ephraim, a young Satmar Jew who, recently widowed, decides to leave his strict Hasidic life behind and step into the secular world. Add hipsters, cell phone tracking and bicycles to the mix, and you’ve got a poignant and funny piece. Bone says Satmars, who are the strictest of Hasidic Jews, see it as their express mission to repopulate the world for every Jewish person killed in the Holocaust. She set out to explore the Satmar community, who, much like the Amish, are shunned from their community once they leave. After visiting the Tenement Museum in New York, hiring a personal tour guide, reading and watching countless books on Hasidism, and spending most of her time living in two “homes” the past three years, Bone felt she had ample background information — well, almost. The former Ursuline Academy acting teacher struck up a relationship with Footsteps, a social work group that acts as a safe house for people who decide to leave. “Reaching out to someone who feels displaced is very important to me,” Bone says. As a mom to two adopted children, Bone decided to leave the teaching world when she realized she was spending more time at work than with her three children. Now Bone will bring her 14-year-old daughter along with her to New York this summer, where she’s subleased a place since June 15 and will remain until Aug. 5 to help out with her play, which will be featured in the 14th annual Midtown International Theatre Festival July 17-Aug. 3. Her husband, who is a lawyer, and two older sons will visit on the weekends. One of Bone’s former Preston Hollow students, Jojo Nwoko, a Jesuit College Preparatory alumnus, has a role in the play. “Every actor, I’m excited to say, has a Yale, Juilliard or NYU background,” Bone says. She adds that she could not have turned her original impression into a piece if it weren’t for the help of her UTD graduate class and professor Fred Curchack, or “the artist whisperer.” She’s also grateful to the people at Footsteps, her Jewish friends in Dallas, and the people who have gone through the transition themselves. “I hope the play will open up different ways for dialogue to occur within the community that left,” Bone says. “The play doesn’t pose any solutions, but hopefully it’ll pose some questions.”


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  • Gedalya Gottdenger

    Interesting. However, this is the same story that is always told about the gray spaces of the Hasidic world, with the same sources even (Footsteps, etc). Yes, Hasidic people live next to hipsters. Yes, some Hasidic people stop living as observant Jews. This happens more often than people realize – but when we tell this story, the same story, over and over, it makes Jewish Williamsburg AND those who choose to leave into a static stereotype, and traps these people in the netherworld of the “off the derech” instead of recognising the humanity and individuality of ALL people – regardless of their religious or trust fund backgrounds. I’d like to see a story where the main characters are hipsters and Hasidim, but the main plot of the story isn’t ABOUT them being hipsters and Hasidim, or about Hasidim who go off the derech.