Amazon’s impact on the Hasidic economy
Thu, April 22, 2021

Amazon’s impact on the Hasidic economy

Hasidic Jews religiously follow rules that forbid both genders from congregating with each other. / Photo by serhiinikolaienko via 123rf


The Hasidic Jews may seem old-fashioned when it comes to their manner of dressing, with the men preferring black suits and formal hats and the women going for long sleeves and long skirts. They also religiously follow rules that forbid both genders from congregating with each other, the New York Times claimed. 


Ultra-Orthodox Jews Doing Business on Amazon

Despite their reputation for not being fashion-forward, these Jews are thoroughly modern when it comes to matters of commerce - electronic commerce actually - having learned to do business on Amazon. The ease and anonymity of selling merchandise on the online retail giant’s site have transformed the economies of Hasidic neighborhoods in Brooklyn, suburban New York and central New Jersey, Jewish enclaves whose members do not socialize with people from other religions nor go to college or enroll in business programs. 

By selling through Amazon, Hasidic Jews can engage in business even if they do not have the necessary experience nor make investments required by traditional retail stores. The partnership with Amazon enables Hasidic retailers not to deal with the public directly, but through postal mail, e-mail, or package delivery firms. 


The Hasids can continue selling through the Sabbath and the traditional holidays. / Photo by Rafael Ben-Ari via 123rf


If the packing and shipping of the merchandise are delegated to Amazon, in accordance with certain interpretations of Jewish law, the Hasids can continue selling through the Sabbath and the traditional holidays, such as Rosh Hashana and the Sukkot festival, since they do not violate the prohibition on working on sacred days. 

Amazon also gives Hasidic Jews the flexibility of becoming full-time merchants and successful businessmen, men who would rather study the Talmud and pray than do anything else, and women who have to tend to seven or eight children. 


Some of the Hasidic Jews Selling on Amazon

Among these retailers is 33-year-old Danny Khaimov, who has transformed a 10,000-sq.-ft storage space in Brooklyn into a warehouse for new and used electronic goods that he buys from various closing-out sales and later sells on Amazon. 

Khaimov said that a retail store may attract five or 10 people but selling on Amazon enables retailers to have a wider reach, even a thousand users. Volumes of the Talmud and a set of tefillin, sacred leather boxes, and straps used for morning prayers, can be found on his workspace. 

His warehouse is located inside a six-story loft building in the Hasidic neighborhood of Borough Park, Brooklyn, where trading on Amazon has become so popular. The building has 140 tenants, including Khaimov, who are ultra-orthodox, and 50 of these tenants sell their wares on Amazon. There is a kosher cafeteria in the building and a large room for conducting the required three daily religious services.

Another trader who is on his way to making a successful business is 32-year-old Nuchem who was worried about how he might earn a living after finishing advanced yeshiva studies. Friends who were selling pet supplies on Amazon allowed the father of four to watch how they do business. Nuchem would later start selling health supplements out of his Brooklyn home and now has an office, three workers, and 800 orders each day. He said that it does not matter what is being sold on Amazon as long as its requirements are met. 


Zlata Bernstein offers custom printing and sells iron-on and stick-on labels to identify the clothes of children at summer camps / Photo by Adrian Wojcik via 123rf


Among the Hasidic women who have found a niche on Amazon is Zlata Bernstein, who operates a full-time business out of her Brooklyn home in addition to taking care of eight children, aged 1 to 18.

She offers custom printing and sells iron-on and stick-on labels to identify the clothes of children at summer camps and has diversified to clothing labels for nursing home patients and children at daycare centers. 

When the older children are in school and the 1-year-old is cared for by a babysitter, Zlata goes down to the basement of her semi-attached home and creates labels with a $20,000 color printer, a smaller black-and-white printer, and a cutting machine. The labels are packed into sets of 100 pieces and placed inside stamped envelopes for delivery to retailers and individual customers.

She is confident that customers looking for labels will choose her niche business, Starlight Labels, on Amazon and will do business with her as long as her products have high quality and are delivered promptly. Many of her products have garnered four or five stars on Amazon’s five-star rating system.

An Amazon spokesman said Brooklyn is home to many independent retailers selling on its online platform. Likewise, a company official, who opted to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to provide any information about sellers, said that Amazon is aware that there is a sizeable concentration of businesses in Hasidic neighborhoods, such as Borough Park.



The Size of the US Digital Economy in 2017

An infographic shared by the US Bureau of Economic Analysis showed that the digital economy accounted for 6.9 percent of the US gross domestic product in 2017, with a value of 1.4 trillion USD. The average annual growth rate of the US digital economy from 1998 to 2017 was 9.9 percent, which is higher than the overall U.S. economic growth of 2.3 percent. 

Employment in the US digital economy in 2017 stood at 5.1 million jobs, which is 3.3 percent of the total US economy. The average annual compensation of the digital economy worker in 2017 was estimated to be 132,223 USD.