University Press of New England
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.