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Jews of Brooklyn
Ilana Abramovitch, ed.; Seán Galvin, ed.

Brandeis Series in American Jewish History, Culture, and Life

Brandeis University Press
2001 • 400 pp. 150 illus., Map 8 1/2 x 11"
Jewish Studies / New York City / Ethnic Studies

$39.95 Hardcover, 978-1-58465-003-4

“Say ‘Brooklyn’ and whatever images first come to mind are due in part to the Jews who shaped the borough, as this large, complex collection definitively demonstrates. Offering historical examinations of populations shifts, synagogues and egg creams alongside personal experiences of community, in this encyclopedia the variations are a metaphor for the broad spectrum of experiences of a people in a place. . . Readers will be pulled in by an intoxicating nostalgia for this multifaceted locale's personality, even if they've never been there.”—Publishers Weekly

A kaleidoscopic look at the history, culture, and community of Brooklyn Jews.

Flatbush Avenue, Borough Park, Coney Island and Brighton Beach, Brooklyn Bridge, Loehman's and Lundy's, Mrs. Stahl's potato knishes, the Dodgers, Barbra Streisand and Woody Allen, front stoops and back porches, Hasids and Socialists, a place, a feeling, a state of mind -- Brooklyn and American Jewry grew up together in the 20th century. From the first documented settlement of Jews in Brooklyn in the 1830s to the present day, Jewish presence -- always between a quarter to a third of Brooklyn's entire population -- has been key to the development of the borough. Jewish families and foodways, businesses, schools, and synagogues, simchas and celebrations, have been an essential component of Brooklyn life.

In Jews of Brooklyn, over forty historians, folklorists, museum curators, musicians, and ordinary Brooklyn Jews with something to say about egg creams and Brooklyn accents, present a vivid, living record of this astonishing cultural heritage.

Essays in the first section, "Coming to Brooklyn" explore the creative and often bewildering foundations of immigrant life. Juxtaposed are arrival experiences of eastern European Jews, Syrian Jews, Jews from Israel, and Holocaust survivors, and the kinds of shops, factories, synagogues, and schools they established there. "Living in Brooklyn," looks at neighborhoods, culture, and institutions from the 1930s to the present. Evocative portraits of Bensonhurst, Borough Park, Brighton Beach, Brownsville, Canarsie, Crown Heights, Flatbush, and Williamsburg describe street life and local characters, offering an intimate look at Jewish family life, even as they convey a sense of evolving neighborhoods and changing times. "Leaving Brooklyn / Returning to Brooklyn" features essays on famous Brooklynites such as Barbra Streisand and Danny Kaye as well as numerous personal reminiscences and family portraits of ordinary folk, making it clear that Brooklyn, for better and for worse, maintains a lasting presence in the lives of Jews born and raised there.

Ilana Abramovitch's Introduction provides general historical context. The book also features a detailed timeline of Jewish immigration to and settlement in borough's neighborhoods, and of key events and turning points in the history of Jewish Brooklyn, as well as a Selected Bibliography.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

From the Book:

"On most early Friday afternoons 'Amnon's Kosher Pizza' on 13th Avenue in Boro Park is so crowded that most people finish their meals standing up. The popular eating place is in the heart of this largely Hasidic community, a restaurant famous for its falafel, knishes and, of course, pizza. Making her way through the throng of noisy yeshiva students is my mother. After a long walk on the 'avenue,' as 13th Avenue is affectionately known by the locals, she needs a rest and a taste of Rose's delicious potato knishes. My mother has lived in Boro Park for the last 25 years. She knows every store and street vendor on the avenue. She can tell you who sells the plumpest tomatoes for the lowest price, the freshest cheese danish, the fluffiest challa, the juciest prime cut around . . . For my mother, a Romanian-Israeli Holocaust survivor, this corner of Brooklyn has been the only place she has ever felt at home in America. Despite the many trappings of modern life -- televisions, telephones, subways -- this place reminds her of another home, far away in Northern Romania, where she lived happily until the storms came and took her to Auschwitz. Much as I would want her to be closer to me I realize that for her Boro Park is the only place she can ever be happy in exile." -- from My Mother's Boro Park by Michael Taub

ILANA ABRAMOVITCH is Manager of Curriculum in New York's Museum of Jewish Heritage -- A Living Memorial to the Holocaust and has served as consultant for numerous Jewish arts festivals. SEÁN GALVIN is Project Director, Liberty Partnership Program, LaGuardia Community College, CUNY. They both have served as Director of Folk Arts Programs at the Brooklyn Arts Council.

Wed, 5 Nov 2014 15:21:46 -0500