A Jewish-Themed Escape Room in Brooklyn

1905 Avenue M in Midwood (Photo via Bklyner)

News that a Jewish-themed escape room opening in Midwood, Brooklyn involves escaping a simulated Russian pogrom raised eyebrows earlier this month. It prompted Bklyner’s Avi Glickstein to ask: “But is a Jewish-themed escape room necessarily an inappropriate idea?” He writes that on the first night of Passover, Jewish families will gather for the same purpose: Role playing – “to visualize ourselves as slaves in Egypt and to relive our escape from bondage.”

In fact, the theme of escape – sometimes the inability to escape – continues to play out over and over again in Jewish history.

From there, Glickstein finds out how the escape room venture, called One Before Escape, developed through one man’s interest in history. He speaks with Gamliel Beyderman, the Soviet native behind the idea.

“I have a passion that I never had time to invest in, which is genealogy. I was interested in Jewish genealogy since I was a teenager,” he explained when speaking with us recently. After his teenage son visited an escape room in Manhattan and built his own version in their basement, he figured “let me combine this and build kind of a community institution to communicate this hobby that I have in this interactive format.”

He pointed out that escape rooms are increasingly being used by institutions like museums and schools as educational tools. And that’s really what he’s hoping to accomplish with One Before – to use a particular genealogical story to inspire others to explore their own personal history.

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“Different events in Jewish history – burning of the Talmud, pogroms in Europe – all become puzzles. As you go through the escape room, you’re learning about those events. It’s a museum in a sense but in the form of an escape room.”

Patrons of One Before Escape start their time travel journey in a government office in Ellis Island as a character based on a real man. Go to the Bklyner story to see where it goes from there.

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