Bnei Brak started out in 1924 as an agricultural settlement established by a group of Polish Hassidim (members of a Jewish mystic movement founded in the 18th century in Eastern Europe). However, due to a lack of land, many of its founders were forced to turn to other occupations, such as commerce and handicrafts, and soon Bnei Brak assumed an urban character.
It was officially declared a city with the establishment of the State of Israel, and in the early 1950s, many Admors (Hassidic “Grand Rabbis”) began moving their courts from Tel Aviv to Bnei Brak. Within several years, Bnei Brak had turned into the largest ultra-Orthodox Jewish center in the world, and assumed a marked ultra-Orthodox Jewish character. The city’s religious character gives it a special charm. It has no modish fashion shops, yuppie coffee houses, or posh restaurants, but it has an extraordinary simplicity, modesty and uniqueness which culminate in the hustle and bustle as the Jewish Sabbath day approaches, when crowds of Hassidic Jews throng to the synagogues to pray.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews are divided into different Hassidic courts and into different communities, and the city is divided along the same principle. There are neighborhoods specific to particular courts (for example, the Vizhnitser neighborhood) and to particular communities (such as the Ponevezh district, whose residents belong to the Lithuanian stream of non-Hassidic ultra-orthodox Jews). Interspersed among them are a large number of Yeshivas (institutes of learning sacred Jewish texts), Admor courts, Kollels (institutes for advanced students of religious texts), and other religious institutions.
This bustling city has one secular neighborhood called Pardes Kats.