After a long wait, enthusiasts of Jewish tradition, genealogy, and escape rooms now have a unique venue that combines all three worlds!
Gamliel Beyderman, the Russian-born, Orthodox Jewish data scientist on a wild journey to launch America’s first Jewish escape room, finally opened the doors of his venue to the customers right before Chanukah. An escape room is an interactive and immersive game in a room setting, a “scavenger hunt in a room.” Players are locked in a room and need to escape by solving a series of puzzles and riddles under a time limit.
The Brooklyn location is in Midwood, a predominantly Orthodox neighborhood, even though the venue caters to anyone (Jewish or not) interested in all things Jewish. No background in Jewish studies is necessary to complete the room. The facility welcomes school trips and features a 35-person event space that doubles as a fine art gallery focused on the themes explored in the escape room.
The escape room brings to life a true story of a man who discovered that some of the greatest sages of Israel are his ancestors. The stranger-than-fiction but true plot weaves together genealogy, Jewish history, lovingkindness, sacrifices, and miracles.
After witnessing his teenage son’s fascination with escape rooms to the point of building one in the basement of their home, Beyderman realized that this medium can be a powerful educational tool to explain complex ideas through play. Immersed in its all-absorbing mission to escape, the brain hungrily grasps all the hints provided in the room. This is the moment to explain the concepts the brain may otherwise resist!
The escape room dramatizes the genealogical discoveries made by Dr. Jeffrey Mark Paull in his quest to illuminate his family’s lost connection to a noble past. Paull, a partner in OneBefore, captured his experiences in a volume called “A Noble Heritage,” published in 2012.
In Beyderman’s words: “I was amazed that [Paull] restored every single ancestral link connecting himself to the Shpoler Zeide, Rabbi Pinchas Koritzer, Rashi, and ultimately King David. As Jews, we are surrounded and comforted by the stories of their mighty deeds, their Torah — every day. My idea was to take the visitors of our escape room right into those stories through the escape room puzzles.”
The visit continues in the Shpoler Zeide Gallery where each work of art is a story and a portal for meditation about the visitors’ experiences. Beyderman will lead sessions that combine song, discussion, meditation, and traditional shtetl food!
At one point during the venue’s construction, a viral rumor was spread on social media and in local tabloids that the venue simulates the sensation of being a Jewish victim of a pogrom — even earning Beyderman an accusation of antisemitism. This only strengthened the founder’s determination to press on with his plans to create a place where everyone is inspired and uplifted and not threatened.
A second escape room at the same location is currently under construction. It promises to take the visitor on a journey to meet the legendary 18th-century mystic, Rabbi Pinchas Koritzer. The room is an attempt to recreate a trip through the 20 generations of the Shapiro rabbinic dynasty to find the greatest treasure of the Jewish people. The themes range from saving the manuscripts of Rabbi Pinchas from the flames of the Holocaust to the Jewish mystical numerology (gematria) to the heartwarming story of Rashi, the greatest Bible commentator of all time.
OneBefore Escape is a part of the global escape room phenomenon, as well as an immersive museum of how technology allows us to trace our roots to the most illustrious leaders of the Jewish people. The visitors are tasked with reliving the true story of Dr. Jeffrey Mark Paull, who traced his lineage to the greatest saints and sages of the Jewish people, the Shpoler Zaide, Rashi and ultimately King David. OneBefore is in the Midwood section of Brooklyn, near numerous kosher restaurants and shops, and steps from the subway.
OneBefore Escape is located at 1905 Avenue M in Brooklyn. For details, call 718-975-0331 and mention coupon code 5TJT, or email email@example.com.