Boro Park Snapshot: Judaica Corner
No one knows the truth that Yidden are the “people of the book,” better than Aron Langsam, the owner of Judaica Corner at 4301 13th Ave.
For instance, ever since the seven-year Daf Yomi cycle re-started in January, Langsam shared that more customers than ever coming in to buy mesechta after mesechta.
“Every mesechta, I underestimate the amount of people who are learning Daf Yomi,” Langsam told Heshy Rubinstein for BoroPark24.com. “Not only are Yidden sticking with the Daf Yomi and continuing to learn, but new people are joining all the time! For every new mesechta, we are seeing an increase in lomdim.”
For Mesechta Shabbos, for instance, Langsam said he ordered 10 cases of seforim, but he could not believe it when he realized did not have enough copies to keep up with the demands of his customers.
“So, I ordered 15 cases of the Artscroll Mesechta Eruvin, which they just started, and I already ran out,” Langsam said. “I re-ordered more boxes already!”
Why, Rubinstein wondered, do so many Yidden buy new individual mesechtas when so many chassanim receive sets of Shas as wedding gifts from their fathers-in-law?
Langsam explained the milahs of the newer Artscroll mesechtas, which are that they are lighter, smaller, and more portable. Plus, the Artscroll editions provide English and many explanations, which allow for learning the daf with greater speed and depth.
“I think many people leave their larger and heavier sets at home,” explained Langsam. “The chassan gift sets are hardcover, and they have large print, which are nice to learn at home or with children. The Artscroll and some of the Oz Vehadar mesechtas come in paperback editions, which are lightweight, and therefore, easier to take to shul, to work, on the train.
Although the seforim for Daf Yomi are quite popular, at Judaica corner, Langsam sells a wide variety seforim in Yiddish, Hebrew, and English, in addition to providing a huge selection of Judaica for every Yom tov and every stage of life.
For instance, Langsam provides for the many Judaica needs of the newly married with a new boutique that has its own floor, which is dedicated just for the need of specific needs of chassans and kallahs: whether they need machzorim sets, tallesim, kittlach, challah knives and boards, or candle sticks.
In addition, Langsam has a separate area for books for kids with special needs and their parents, teachers, and librarians, all who can make appointments for individualized attention with the store’s knowledgeable staff.
“We give all of our customers our full attention so they can have an easy and enjoyable shopping experience,” explained Langsam, who added that he honors discounts for many organizations that cater to special needs populations.
Everyone, however, in Boro Park loves to read. The lockdown during the Covid season was particularly a time that many Boro Park residents headed to the Judaica Corner to find some great books to learn, to read, and to share with their children, who were out of school and needing entertainment and stimulation.
“With everyone home, we had a big demand for new books,” said Langsam said gratefully.
The Judaica Corner also sells a wide variety of classic toys and games in Yiddish, such as Monopoly and Stratego, plus other games with more Yiddishe toichen.
While still learning in a Belzer Kollel, where Langsam learned for six years, he started his business by selling tallesim and seforim out of his home.
As his family grew, and Langsam and his wife needed more room at home, and so he opened the Judaica Corner 13 years ago in the location where it sits today on 13th Ave.
“Everything we have now, we had then: now we just have a greater quantity and variety,” said Langsam, who added that his store focuses his book selection on books that are used in kollels, yeshivas, and chederim, plus many new releases. “We have everything on a much grander scale. Plus, now we ship to Canada, Europe, and every zip code in the U.S.”
Referring back to Langsam’s kollel days, Rubinstein asked whether it is true when Sages say that Jewish booksellers should be talmid chachamin to be able to properly help their customers.
With a modest laugh, Langsam said that while knowledge of Yiddishkeit “for sure helps” in his business, “the main thing you need to know is the outside of the seforim.”
“The inside of the seforim can be for the people who buy them,” he said with a smile.
Langsam explained that he and his staff often take advantage of their learning in many ways as they assist anyone who comes into the store.
For instance, customers might need advice on what to buy for gifts for a shver, a Rabbi, a Rebbe, or a bar mitzvah boy, explained Langsam, who recounted how he tries to determine the tastes of the people for whom the gifts are being bought.
“For instance, we ask whether the person likes lomdus, and whether English or Yiddish translations would be appropriate for the person receiving the gift,” Langsam said. “Our staff help customers with many questions, or vague ideas of what they need. For instance, we recently had a customer who wasn’t sure whether he needed an Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh or an Orach Chaim on Shulchan Aruch.”
Not only are Langsam and his staff very heimish, but his customers are as well. For instance, the Judaica store owner recalled a customer who was new to Yiddishkeit, who was buying mezuzahs and tefillin for the first time.
Unsurprisingly, the customer fretted at the cashier at the total amount for his purchases, and he wondered aloud whether he could afford a second mezuzah.
Another customer, a nice man, who was standing by the cashier, heard the exchange, and kindly offered to pay for the second mezuzah of the baal teshuvah.
After some time had passed, the baal teshuva had become stronger in both his Yiddishkeit and his parnassah. To show gratitude for his pleasant experience, the customer sent Langsam the money for a mezuzah that he wanted to passed on to the next customer who came into the store and needed a little extra help with both his Yiddishkeit and the total of his purchase.
“The customer said, ‘when you see another customer who reminds you of me, please use this money for his mezuzah,’” Langsam said. “In such a beautiful way, he wanted to sponsor a Jew who might be in the same situation.”