Print / View Finding Aid as Single Page

Brooklyn Historical Society logo

Guide to the Crown Heights History Project collection 1994.006

Brooklyn Historical Society
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn 11201
718-222-4111
library@brooklynhistory.org


Brooklyn Historical Society

Collection processed by Brett Dion

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on February 14, 2019
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Container List

Crown Heights History Project oral histories, 1993 to 1994 1993. 76.31 Gigabytes

Asramon, Afealliah, 1993 August 22

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to this oral history is restricted by the donor. Please contact library@brooklynhistory.org for further questions.

Subject Names

  • Asramon, Afealliah

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Bernard, A.R., 1993 August 12

Biographical / Historical

Rev. Dr. A.R. Bernard was born in Panama City, Panama, in 1953. At the age of four, he and his mother, an Olympic track star, immigrated to the United States. Rev. Bernard grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick neighborhoods of Brooklyn, where he attended public schools. He was bused to Ridgewood in the 1960s in order to attend junior high and high school. Impacted by the racism and segregation he experienced, Rev. Bernard became interested in the Black Panthers and a follower of the Nation of Islam. On January 11, 1975 he became a Christian. At the time of the interview in 1993, he was ministering to 625 families from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. Focused on a conservative, family centered, practical faith, Rev. Bernard is, as of 2015, the senior pastor of the Christian Cultural Center located at 1400 Linden Boulevard, Brooklyn, New York.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, the narrator discusses his childhood in Brooklyn, experience of the Civil Rights Movement, the Nation of Islam and his reasons for converting to Christianity. He remembers racial conflicts, violence and the institutional segregation of the 1950s and '60s. He reflects on the black awareness that the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam provided in the community during this period and relates this to his conversion experience. The end of the interview focuses on the mission, makeup and contributions of the Christian Life Center. He shares his viewpoints on the breakdown of the family and the community, providing solutions based on the church's focus. He responds to questions concerning the riot of 1991 in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. Interview conducted by Craig Wilder.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Bernard, A.R., Rev. Dr.

Subject Organizations

  • Christian Cultural Center

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Big churches
  • Conversion -- Christianity
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Panamanian Americans
  • Race identity
  • School integration -- New York (State)

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Bushwick (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)

Burston, Chaim, 1993 August 23

Biographical / Historical

Chaim Burston was born to Jewish-American parents in Pasadena, California. After enrolling at Tel Aviv University, Chaim traveled to Israel. Subsequent to joining a Lubavitch Hasidic community as a baal teshuvah (a Jew returning to Orthodoxy), Burston returned to the United States to continue his studies in New York. It was in the Lubavitch community of Crown Heights, Brooklyn where he met his wife Chana. The young couple married, purchased a home – and with Chaim becoming an elementary school teacher along the way – had eight children together. A musician, Burston had taken to playing melodies intended to accompany prayers.

Scope and Contents

Burston recounts his youth, travelling abroad to Israel and rediscovering his ancestral religion. He also discusses meeting his wife, what it's like raising a large family in New York City, and touches on relations with his Afro-Caribbean neighbors in the aftermath of the 1991 riot in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. The interview ends with Burston playing his synthesizer keyboard. Interview conducted by Jill Vexler.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Burston, Chaim

Subject Organizations

  • Congregation Lubavitch (Crown Heights, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • Caribbean Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Education
  • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)
  • Immigrants
  • Jewish neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Judaism -- Hasidic rite
  • Musicians
  • Reformed Judaism
  • Theology

Subject Places

  • California
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Israel

Cattan, Rachel Lea, August 15, 1993

Biographical / Historical

Rachel Lea Cattan was born to Polish parents in Novosibirsk, Siberia in the former Soviet Union. At the age of eleven, her parents moved the family to Lodz, Poland and a year later to Braslav. Then, at age thirteen, the family immigrated to the United States; finally settling in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn. Cattan attended New York public schools, including Music and Art High School (Fiorella H. LaGuardia High School). She completed her undergraduate degree, in painting, at Pratt Institute. At the time of the interview in 1993, she was a public school teacher, in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, and a divorced mother of four. She is Jewish and has an older sister and a younger brother.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Cattan discusses her childhood; immigration to the United States; her transition to an observant Jewish lifestyle; her divorce; and the racial tensions of the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. Interview conducted by Aviva Segall.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

This interview is restricted.

Subject Names

  • Cato, Gavin
  • Cattan, Rachel Lea
  • Schneerson, Menachem Mendel

Subject Topics

  • Identification (Religion)
  • Jews -- Return to Orthodo- Judaism
  • Jews -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jews, Polish
  • Jews, Russian
  • Riots -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • East New York (New York, N.Y.)
  • Poland
  • Russia
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Crawford, Avroham (Avrohom), 1993 August 24

Biographical / Historical

Avroham Crawford grew up in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, the son of Irish-Catholic immigrants from Newfoundland. He was raised in the church, but considered converting to Judaism while studying for his bachelor's degree in philosophy at NYU (where he continued to work as a librarian through the time of this interview). He moved to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights in 1970, and shortly afterwards was converted to Orthodox Judaism with assistance from Rabbi Yisroel Jacobson; he chose the Jewish name "Avroham" at this time. In 1975, he married Suri (Perlman), and they had three children: Nechama, Yitzhak, and Yisroel. He died in 2011.

Scope and Contents

Avroham, in his late 40s, narrates his Irish-Catholic upbringing, his early encounters with Jewish people, and his conversion to Orthodox Judaism. He describes how the Lubavitch of the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn have changed and grown in the years since 1970, when he moved there. He reflects on the religious community's acceptance of him as a Christian convert, on how his children have grown up Lubavitch, and on secular Jews who take up Orthodox practice as adults (known as baal teshuvah). When asked, he explains the extent of his interaction with the Black residents of Crown Heights. At various points throughout the interview, he dwells on religious subjects: how boys and girls are educated, how Judaism is different from Christianity, how conversion for marriage is different than for faith alone, and others. Interview conducted by Jill Vexler.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Crawford, Avroham
  • Hecht, Jacob J.

Subject Organizations

  • Congregation Lubavitch (Crown Heights, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • Canadian Americans
  • Conversion -- Judaism
  • Hasidim -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Interfaith families
  • Interfaith marriage -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish religious education
  • Jews -- Return to Orthodo- Judaism
  • Race relations -- United States

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x History |y 20th century
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Religious life and customs
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Sunset Park (New York, N.Y.)

Crawford, Nechama, Yisroel Crawford and Suri Crawford, 1993 August 25

Biographical / Historical

Nechama Crawford was raised in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. She attended a private Lubavitch school, Bais Rivkah, from kindergarten through twelfth grade. At her Bat Mitzvah (a Jewish coming-of-age ceremony that takes place at the age of twelve or thirteen), she read from the Genesis chapter chai Sarah, or "the life of Sarah." Her younger brother, Yisroel, attended Oholei Torah—a Lubavitch school that focuses on religious education and teaches exclusively in Hebrew and Yiddish—before switching to Lubavitch Yeshiva. Their mother, Suri, grew up in Holyoke, Massachusetts and had a Modern Orthodox upbringing among her Litvish (or Latvian Jewish) family.

Scope and Contents

Nechama and Yisroel—respectively in twelfth and sixth grade at the time of the interview in 1993—talk about their experience growing up in the Lubavitch community of the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. They describe the various forms of religious education and practice that exist within Hasidic Judaism, as well as the expectations and roles that are laid out for young girls and boys. At the interviewer's prompting, Nechama reflects on her community's relationship with the "outside," especially the Black residents of Crown Heights and the non-Jewish city at large. Suri, their mother, talks about her children's education, the role of women in her religion, the cost of living in Brooklyn, and her Modern Orthodox upbringing. Interview conducted by Jill Vexler.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Cato, Gavin
  • Crawford, Nechama
  • Crawford, Suri
  • Crawford, Yisroel

Subject Organizations

  • Congregation Lubavitch (Crown Heights, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • Hasidim -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish religious education
  • Jewish women
  • Race relations -- United States
  • Teenagers -- Religious life

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x History |y 20th century
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Religious life and customs
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)

De Shong, Roxanne, 1993 August 29

Biographical / Historical

Roxanne De Shong was born in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. She immigrated to Brooklyn in the 1970s with her parents to Crown Street in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. Her father sold life insurance and her mother worked near the family home at Woolworth's. She went to a public school in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn for one year, then to Holy Spirit Catholic School for grades two to eight. She attended Clara Barton High School and then Hostoffs in The Bronx. De Shong's major in high school was Dental Assistant and she worked at several offices in New York City. De Shong has more than one child, including a son. Her son's father was shot and killed in a drug-related incident in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Wilder and De Shong discuss the cultural differences between Carribean and American born people, the stereotypes associated with West Indians and Jamaicans, and the changes in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn between when she arrived and at the time of the interview in 1993 citing the presence crime, violence, and drugs. The two also discussed the misperceptions, housing, and safety inequities between the Lubavitch and Black neighborhood residents, the struggle to live in Crown Heights, and her son's relationship to Gavin Cato. Interview conducted by Craig Wilder.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Cato, Gavin
  • De Shong, Roxanne
  • Rosenbaum, Yankel

Subject Organizations

  • Clara Barton High School (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Congregation Lubavitch (Crown Heights, New York, N.Y.)
  • Holy Spirit Catholic School (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Caribbean Americans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social life and customs
  • Children -- Death
  • Crime -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Discrimination in housing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Rastafarians -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Economic conditions |y 20th century
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Street (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
  • Eastern Parkway (New York, N.Y.)
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Goldman, Esther, 1993 August 16

Biographical / Historical

Esther Goldman was born in Poland in 1926. An observant Jew from birth, she came to New York with her mother and siblings in 1934, joining her father who had arrived two years earlier. After living in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn for several years, Goldman's family moved to Eastern Parkway in the Crown Heights neighborhood in 1941. After marrying and briefly living in Philadelphia, Goldman returned to Crown Heights with her husband, and they had four children together. With Goldman's children grown and out of the house, she began working for a company on Broadway and Spring Street in Manhattan.

Scope and Contents

Esther Goldman discusses her upbringing in Poland, East New York and on Eastern Parkway in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. She recalls the growing Lubavitch movement of the mid to late twentieth century, and traces her own life's journey through the milieu of faith, family, neighbors, white flight, and historic events – ending in the 1991 Crown Heights riot and its aftermath. Interview conducted by Aviva Segall.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Goldman, Esther
  • Schneerson, Menachem Mendel
  • Sharpton, Al

Subject Organizations

  • Congregation Lubavitch (Crown Heights, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jews -- United States
  • Mass media and ethnic relations
  • Multiculturalism

Subject Places

  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Philadelphia (Pa.)
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Haynes, Joseph Harold, 1993 August 31

Biographical / Historical

Joseph Harold Haynes, African American, grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights neighborhoods of Brooklyn. He attended Haaren High School for aviation studies and received a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Missouri. Mr. Haynes was employed as a mechanical engineer for the New York City Transit Authority and as an accident investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board. He was a licensed commercial pilot and flight instructor. A contributor, to the now defunct, New Muse Community Museum, Joseph Haynes was a founding member of the Society for the Preservation of Weeksville. Haynes was in his 60s at the time of his interview. He died March 2, 1997.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Haynes discusses growing up in central Brooklyn during the 1940s and '50s; the importance of family, during this period; racial segregation; his passion for aviation; the Muse Community Museum; the founding of the Society for the Preservation of Weeksville; the 1991 riot in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights and the future of race relations. Interview conducted by Craig Wilder.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Cato, Gavin
  • Haynes, Joseph Harold
  • Rosenbaum, Yankel

Subject Organizations

  • New York City Transit Authority
  • Society for the Preservation of Weeksville and Bedford-Stuyvesant History

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Blacks -- Race identity
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Riots -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) -- Social life and customs -- 20th century
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Weeksville (New York, N.Y.)

Ince, Iyedun, 1993 August 15

Biographical / Historical

At the time of the interview in 1993, African American Ince Iyedun was twenty years old. Born in Harlem, New York, he and his brother Ojo Ashegun were raised by a single mother in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. He attended parochial and public schools in the area; graduating from Brooklyn Technical High School. As of 2016, he is a djembe musician and teacher in New York City.

Scope and Contents

The narrator discusses his childhood in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights, the disillusionment he experienced in high school and the decline of the youth culture of Crown Heights. He describes his own struggle to define himself and free himself from the pressures of his generation. He discusses possible approaches to changing the social environment of the neighborhood and concludes the interview with advice directed to the youth of Crown Heights. Interview conducted by Craig Wilder.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Ince, Iyedun

Subject Organizations

  • Brooklyn Technical High School (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Blacks -- Race identity
  • Education -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Riots -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)

Jacobson, Simon, 1993 August 19

Biographical / Historical

Rabbi Simon Jacobson was born in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights in 1956. Observant from birth, he attended Lubavitch Yeshiva and lived on St. Marks Avenue before moving to Sullivan Place. His father was Gershon Jacobson, founder and publisher of the Yiddish-language Hasidic newspaper Der Algemeiner. For several years Simon worked as the editor and translator of speeches by the Lubavitch Rebbe, Menachem Schneerson. Later, he became the director of Vaad Hanochos Hatmimim, a foundation that promotes Schneerson's teachings. A noted teacher in the community, he is the founder of a Lubavitch organization for outreach and education called the Meaningful Life Center, based on Eastern Parkway.

Scope and Contents

Rabbi Simon Jacobson narrates his childhood in Crown Heights during the 1950s and '60s, recounting how the ethnic and religious composition of the Brooklyn neighborhood (including among different Hasidic movements) has changed throughout his lifetime. He explains the religious reasons for why the Lubavitch have stayed in Crown Heights (when other Jewish groups have left), and he addresses various subjects related to home-ownership—including role played by the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council and the perception that the Lubavitch want to drive Blacks out of the neighborhood. He describes the Lubavitch community's relationship with non-Jews and non-practicing Jews, dwelling on the concept of "chosenness." He and the interviewer discuss possible venues for outreach and cultural "translation"—especially of Jewish holidays and the concept of Moshiach (or messiah). Interview conducted by Jill Vexler.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Jacobson, Simon
  • Schneerson, Menachem Mendel

Subject Organizations

  • Congregation Lubavitch (Crown Heights, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • Antisemitism
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Hasidim -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Housing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish religious education
  • Jews -- Return to Orthodo- Judaism
  • Judaism
  • Judaism -- Hasidic rite
  • Race relations -- United States

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x History |y 20th century
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Religious life and customs
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)

Kamman, Baila, 1993 October 17

Biographical / Historical

Baila Kamman was born in the Bronx, New York to middle class, secular Jewish parents. While on a summer vacation during her stint as a New York City public school teacher, she found herself in Israel during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. The experience left Baila with a renewed interest in her religious heritage. Opting to relocate to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights along with a group of similarly worldly women seeking an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle, Baila and her friends faced a steep learning curve in trying to navigate the traditions and mores of their new lifestyle and neighborhood. She married and managed to complete a law degree while raising five children. After relocating to Rockland County, New York from the late 1980s to early '90s, Baila and her husband were residing in Crown Heights in 1993.

Scope and Contents

Kamman, in her 40s, discusses her secular upbringing in a Bronx neighborhood filled with both Reform and Orthodox Jews, college in Queens, as well as her life as a young public elementary school teacher during the 1970s. She recounts the life-altering experience of finding herself in Israel during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and the steps leading up to her eventual entree into the world of Lubavitch Hasidism, as well as how this new conservative lifestyle contradicted many of her 1960s-era values. Baila also details the offbeat courtship that led to her marriage, remembers escalating racial tensions leading up to the Crown Heights neighborhood riot of 1991 and explains how her father's death inspired her to attain a law degree while raising five children. Interview conducted by Aviva Segall.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Abehsera, Michel
  • Cato, Gavin
  • Kamman, Baila
  • Schneerson, Menachem Mendel
  • Sharpton, Al

Subject Organizations

  • Congregation Lubavitch (Crown Heights, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • Arab-Israeli conflict
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Feminism -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Jewish neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Judaism -- Hasidic rite
  • Reformed Judaism

Subject Places

  • Bronx (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social life and customs
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Israel
  • Queens (New York, N.Y.)
  • Rockland County (N.Y.)
  • Saint Paul (Minn.)

Kleinman, Zalman, 1993 July 21

Biographical / Historical

In 1933, Zalman Kleinman was born a Lubavitcher in Leningrad in the former Soviet Union. After the death of his parents, he and his sister were sent to Siberia, where he was adopted by a rabbi. For a time he lived in the Central Asian state of Sumerkand, amongst the Bukharian Jews. Kleinman immigrated to Paris, where he studied at an underground Lubavitch yeshiva. From Paris, he traveled to Israel where he began painting. He returned to Paris where he met and married his wife Rosa. In 1958, they immigrated to New York City and to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. An esteemed artist who painted Jewish life within the Hasidic community, Kleinman died in 1995.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, the narrator discusses his childhood in Communist Russia; his adoption; life after World War II; immigrating to Paris, Israel and New York; meeting his wife; family life in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights; being an artist in a religious community and the making of a good family. Interview conducted by Jill Vexler.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Kleinman, Zalman

Subject Organizations

  • Congregation Lubavitch (Crown Heights, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Art -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Artists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Arts -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Children's literature
  • Jews, Russian -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jews -- United States -y 20th century

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Emigration and immigration
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Religious life and customs
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) -- Social life and customs -- 20th century
  • Israel
  • Paris (France)
  • Russia
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration
  • Uzbekistan

Kosher Cookbook Committee, 1993

Biographical / Historical

Esther Blau, 40s with twelve children, was born into a Lubavitch family in the midwest and moved to the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn when she married. She gathered colleagues of the Cookbook Committee to discuss many aspects of life in Crown Heights.

Scope and Contents

Kashruth, or the laws of keeping kosher, is one small part of this discussion.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to this recording is restricted by the donor. Please contact library@brooklynhistory.org for further questions.

Lezama, Carlos, 1993 May 13

Biographical / Historical

Carlos Lezama was born in 1923 in Coro, Venezuela. He grew up in Trinidad but later returned to Venezuela, where was an auto-worker for General Motors and Chrysler, as well as a mechanic in Caracas specializing in dental machinery. After that, he departed for a job as a merchant mariner. It was during his travels as a seaman that he first visited the United States and eventually resolved to move to New York City, which he did—alone—in 1954. He had lived in Manhattan for about two years when he noticed the greater movement of Caribbean people into the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights and followed suit. At some point, his wife and children joined him; they were all congregants at Saint Gregory Catholic Church. He continued to work as a mechanic, taking vocational courses to supplement his training, and after a while was able to buy a home on St. Johns Place. During this time, he became a prominent figure in the cultural life of Crown Heights' West Indian residents. Along with Rufus (Lionel) Gorin, he was a key organizer of the first Carnival parade on Labor Day that went down Eastern Parkway, now commonly called the West Indian Day Parade, in 1969. When Gorin died, Lezama was elected the first president of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA)—a position to which he was repeatedly reelected until he retired in 2002. Located on Eastern Parkway and now called the West Indian Day Parade, and remained president of the Carnival Association for nearly forty years. He died in 2007.

Scope and Contents

Lezama spends the better part of his narration recounting the many years he has lived in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. He describes his life in Venezuela as a young man, the experience of moving to New York on his own, and the steps he took toward settlement and—eventually—home-ownership. He relates the personal facts of his life to the observations he has made about Caribbean immigrants in general, and he favorably compares the openness of the present-day West Indian community to the more isolated, almost sectarian environment that he encountered when he first arrived in the 1950s. In particular, he describes an improvement in relations between West Indian immigrants and American-born Black people (an increasing number of whom, he notes, are from the southern United States). He tells the history of the Labor Day Carnival (or West Indian Day Parade), which he had been leading for twenty-six years. He notes that the parade has long been a source of tension and debate with the Hasidic Jews of Eastern Parkway; he ascribes the 1991 unrest that erupted around the deaths of Gavin Cato and Yankel Rosenbaum, in part, to this tension. Interview conducted by Craig Wilder.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Lezama, Carlos

Subject Organizations

  • West Indian-American Day Carnival Association
  • West Indian American Day Carnival Parade (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • Caribbean Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Caribbean Americans -- New York (State) -- New York -x History -y 20th century
  • Caribbean Americans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social life and customs
  • Carnival -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ethnic relations
  • Parades -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Race relations -- United States
  • Riots -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Vene-uelan Americans -- New York (State)
  • West Indian Americans

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x History
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social conditions |y 20th century
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Eastern Parkway (New York, N.Y.)
  • Venezuela

Lubavitch Child Rearing Discussion

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to this recording is restricted by the donor. Please contact library@brooklynhistory.org for further questions.

Meshchaninov, Bracha, 1993 June 14

Biographical / Historical

Bracha Meshchaninov was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. At fourteen she began seeking a deeper connection to her Jewish faith and at eighteen traveled to Jerusalem, Israel to attend Neve Yerushalayim, an all-girls religious school. After graduating with degrees in English, guidance counseling and education from the University of Witwatersrand, she traveled Israel. At twenty-two, Bracha traveled to the United States where she studied with Lubavitch Hasidim. She soon dedicated herself to Yiddishkeit and married her husband Ilya. In her 30s at the time of the interview in 1993, she was a photographer living in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. She now lives in Rockland County, New York, where she is an educator and Yoga teacher.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Bracha Meshchaninov discusses her childhood and family in Johannesburg, South Africa; her religious education in Israel; being a baal teshuvah (a Jew converted to Orthodoxy); her courtship and marriage to a Russian baal teshuvah; navigating a newly religious identity; the physical decline of the Rebbe and the spiritual ramifications within Lubavitch Hasidim and moving from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. Interview conducted by Jill Vexler.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Meshchaninov, Bracha
  • Schneerson, Menachem Mendel

Subject Organizations

  • Congregation Lubavitch (Crown Heights, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jews, South African
  • Jews -- Return to Orthodo- Judaism
  • Jews -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Race relations -- United States

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Emigration and immigration
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Religious life and customs
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) -- Social life and customs -- 20th century
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Israel
  • South Africa
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Meshchaninov, Moshe, 1993 August 18

Biographical / Historical

Moshe Meshchaninov was born in Leningrad, Russia in the former Soviet Union in 1954. Influenced by his younger brother, as a young engineer Moshe began exploring religious Judaism. This led to the family immigrating to the United States in the early 1980s. He discovered the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights and the Lubavitch community in the late 1980s. A Jew who's returned to Orthodoxy, he met and married his wife Yehudis Chana, who's also a baal teshuvah. A resident of the Lubavitch community of Monsey, New York, he was a principal of a heating, ventilation and air conditioning corporation in 2015.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Meshchaninov discusses life as a Jew in Russia; his conversion to Orthodoxy; the family's immigration to the United States; and the Hasidic community. He suggests resolutions to the tensions in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. Interview conducted by Aviva Segall.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Meshchaninov, Moshe

Subject Organizations

  • Congregation Lubavitch (Crown Heights, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Conversion -- Judaism
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Hasidim -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jews, Russian -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jews -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jews -- United States -y 20th century
  • Judaism -- Hasidic rite
  • Persecution -- Soviet Union
  • Race relations -- United States

Subject Places

  • Borough Park (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Emigration and immigration
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Religious life and customs
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Monsey (N.Y.)
  • Russia

Milfort, Fritznel, 1993 August 17

Biographical / Historical

Fritznel Milfort grew up in Haiti. In 1972, he immigrated to the United States, where he was reunited with his mother and sister. He attended Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn, New York. Mr. Milfort completed an undergraduate degree in accounting and a master's degreen at Long Island University. He is a licensed Certified Public Accountant, who has worked for the Internal Revenue Service, the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, Mitchell/Titus and Oppenheimer, Appel and Dixon. At the time of the interview in 1993, Milfort ran a number of businesses in the Church Avenue area of the Brooklyn neighborhood of Flatbush. For most of his time in the United States, he's lived in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. He continued to work in the field of taxation in a privately owned firm, as of 2015.

Scope and Contents

In the interview Milfort discusses his immigration, and his accomplishments in education and the business. He also suggests ways in which the Haitian and African American communities can support each other. Interview conducted by Craig Wilder.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Milfort, Fritznel

Subject Organizations

  • Long Island University
  • Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority

Subject Topics

  • Accountants -- United States
  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Caribbean Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Caribbean Americans -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social life and customs
  • Education, Higher -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Haitians -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Taxation -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Haiti

Morris, Evelyn, 1993 July 30

Biographical / Historical

Evelyn Morris, an African American, was born in Blackville, South Carolina, in 1935. At the age of eleven, she moved to New York City, with her sister, to reunite with her mother. She spent the remainder of her childhood in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. In 1972, she moved with her six children to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. At the date of the interview in 1993, Ms. Morris was working in a school cafeteria and still resided in the same apartment. A number of her children and grandchildren live within a close proximity. She was also employed as a food supervisor for the New York City Board of Education.

Scope and Contents

Ms. Morris discusses the racial, religious and cultural tension of the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. The core of the interview is a reflection on the cause of the racial tensions, between Blacks and Jews, in the neighborhood and her experience of the Crown Heights riot. Interview conducted by Craig Wilder.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Cato, Gavin
  • Morris, Evelyn
  • Rosenbaum, Yankel

Subject Organizations

  • New York (N.Y.). Police Department

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • Blacks -- Race identity
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Migration, Internal -- United States
  • Police -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Race relations -- United States
  • Riots -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social conditions |y 20th century
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • South Carolina

Neil, Clive, 1993 July 29

Biographical / Historical

Born in Mandeville, Jamaica in 1959, Dr. Clive E. Neil came to the United States on a soccer scholarship. He was an honors student at Eastern University and fellow at Princeton University. He has a master's degree in Divinity as well as a doctorate in Counseling from Drew University. He was ordained and served as minister at Tremont Presbyterian Church in the Bronx from 1985 to 1988. His pastorship at Bedford-Central began in 1988. He has written three books, taught and lectured at area colleges, enrolled as a Ministry Leadership Network scholar, and fathered two children.

Scope and Contents

Reverend Dr. Clive E. Neil discusses the misperceptions and strengths of Jamaicans and Jamaican Americans. He recalls the hardship of leaving family and country and his time in higher education and inner city volunteer work. He describes the ethnic makeup of his congregation on the border of the Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhoods of Brooklyn and how their diversity is a means to educate and celebrate. Neil points out family and community causes he actively supports, such as a Men's Ministry at his church, and the broad-based Nehemiah Homes effort. He also describes the transformation of the area's "Black churches" brought on by the influx of young ministers. He shares his views on the community turmoil and violence related to the deaths of Gavin Cato and Yankel Rosenbaum, the reaction of the local clergy, and the media's unfair slant on the matter. Interview conducted by Craig Wilder.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Cato, Gavin
  • Neil, Clive
  • Rosenbaum, Yankel

Subject Organizations

  • Classon Avenue Presbyterian Church (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Nehemiah Housing
  • Princeton University

Subject Topics

  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • Caribbean Americans
  • Community activists -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Cultural diversity |z New York (State) |z Kings County
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Home ownership -x Social aspects -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrants
  • Jamaicans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Low-income housing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Multiculturalism
  • Presbyterian Church -- New York (State) -- Kings County -x Clergy
  • Race identity
  • Race relations -- United States
  • Racism in mass media

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Classon Avenue (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Oka, Basha, 1993 August 11

Biographical / Historical

At the time of the interview in 1993, Basha Oka was a forty-one year old Lubavitch baal teshuvah (a Jew returned to Orthodoxy for ten years prior), living in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn and working in public relations. Originally from Miami Beach, Oka was raised in a Conservative Jewish home. Her father was mayor of that city. She attended Northwestern University and transferred to Barnard, from which she graduated. She attended Yale for a master's degree in theater.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Oka describes her spiritual awakening; relates her understanding of the Lubavitch Rebbe and the Messianic Lubavitch movement; reflects on her experiences as a baal teshuvah (a Jew conforming to Orthodoxy) and expounds on the racial climate in the Brooklyn of neighborhood of Crown Heights after the riot. Interview conducted by Jill Vexler.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Oka, Basha
  • Schneerson, Menachem Mendel

Subject Organizations

  • Congregation Lubavitch (Crown Heights, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jews -- Return to Orthodo- Judaism
  • Jews, American
  • Race relations -- United States
  • Riots -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) -- Social life and customs -- 20th century
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Miami (Fla.)

Pikus, Sharon, 1993 October 1

Biographical / Historical

Sharon Pikus was born in 1945 and raised in apartments on Rockaway Parkway and at 789 St. Marks Avenue in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. She attended two elementary public schools and Wingate High School, graduating in 1962. After two years at the University of Buffalo, she completed her bachelor's degree at Syracuse University. She obtained a master's degree from the Teachers' College at Columbia University. Both degrees were in Special Education for the Visually Impaired. She worked part-time as a teacher for over fifteen years before joining the four-generation family real estate business. Along with her husband Rubin Pikus, she runs Milbrook Properties, Ltd. as Chief Operating Officer and Secretary. She's a mother of two daughters, a grandmother and has co-chaired the Commission for Women's Equality of American Jewish Congress.

Scope and Contents

Sharon Pikus reflects on her upbringing, mostly in 1950s Brooklyn. She discusses her immigrant grandparents and the beginnings of the family's real estate business. Wingate High School is recalled as an important part of her life. Pikus also discusses the challenge of being a young woman and her view of the anti-egalitarian nature of a Hebrew education and practicing Conservative Judaism. She speaks of her feminism, Zionism, and touches on the Civil Rights Movement. Pikus shares her insight into the racial and financial makeup of the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn she remembers and the neighborhood in days of civil unrest. Interview conducted by Jill Vexler.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Boxer, Barbara
  • Markowitz, Marty
  • Pikus, Sharon
  • Schneerson, Menachem Mendel

Subject Organizations

  • American Jewish Congress
  • Brooklyn Jewish Center (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • George W. Wingate High School

Subject Topics

  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Feminism -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Home ownership -x Social aspects -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Judaism
  • Race relations -- United States
  • Real estate business -- New York (State) -- Nassau County

Subject Places

  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Israel
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Pointer, Louvenia, 1993 May 7

Biographical / Historical

Louvenia Pointer, born in 1916 as Louvenia White, was raised in Holly Hill, South Carolina until 1926. She then lived in Harlem and the Bronx in New York City while working as a professional pianist, organist and soprano. She studied Music Education at New York University and was cast in many Broadway productions, working with artists and thespians including Noel Coward and Ossie Davis. Pointer directed the National Youth Administration Radio Workshop chorus in 1943. She married William Davis Pointer, Sr. in 1947. Moving to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights in 1954, they raised three children. Retired from the theater, Pointer worked as a music teacher in several Brooklyn schools as well as privately. She was active in civic affairs and participated in her block association and the Brooklyn Women's Coalition. She founded the Great Day Chorale, a touring a cappella group, in 1987. She died in 2009.

Scope and Contents

Louvenia Pointer, an African American, says very little about her life before moving to the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. She relates the story of searching and finding the Carroll Street home she and her husband bought. Race is discussed in the context of public schools and the neighborhood. She remembers the events that led her from teaching music privately to public education. Pointer describes her participation in the block association, past and present, as well as the neighborhood children, historically, and children in general. Finally, she talks about the flaws in people that can lead to neighborhood tension, and how best to heal that tension. Interview conducted by Craig Wilder.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Pointer, Noel
  • Johnson, Hall
  • Pointer, Louvenia
  • Pointer, William D., Jr.

Subject Topics

  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • Blacks -- Race identity
  • Community activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Discrimination in housing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Home ownership -x Social aspects -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Multiculturalism
  • Music education
  • Musicians -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Performing arts -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Race relations -- United States

Subject Places

  • Bronx (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Harlem (New York, N.Y.)

Pointer, William D., Jr., 1993 August 10

Biographical / Historical

William D. Pointer Jr. was born to William and Louvenia Pointer in New York City, 1952. He was raised on Carroll St. in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights, along with a brother and sister. Pointer graduated from George W. Wingate High School in 1970. He is married to Elder Lillie Pointer, who serves with him at the Christian Cultural Center (CCC). Since 1992, Reverend Pointer has served at CCC as Associate Pastor and Senior Elder, as well as Director of the Performing Arts Ministry. He and his wife have traveled and ministered across the globe. In 2009, his book "Moving from Pain to Power" was published.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, William D. Pointer Jr. recalls his childhood, his relationship with his best friend from the Jewish family next door, and home ownership of different ethnic groups; all in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. He describes his activism as a Black militant teenager and how the African Student Association effected change. In describing the climate that led to turmoil between the cultures of Crown Heights in 1991, Pointer sees a challenge of how the nation and culture at large values the family unit and community. Interview conducted by Craig Wilder.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Pointer, Louvenia
  • Pointer, William D., Jr.

Subject Organizations

  • Boys' High School (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Christian Cultural Center
  • George W. Wingate High School

Subject Topics

  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • Blacks -- Race identity
  • Christian life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community activists -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Home ownership -x Social aspects -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Multiculturalism
  • Race relations -- United States

Subject Places

  • Bronx (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)

Roberts, Carl E., 1993 July 22

Biographical / Historical

A Jamaican American, Carl E. Roberts has lived in Brooklyn for all his adult life. Emigrating in 1954 while still in his teens, the family moved to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. He worked full-time at a Macy's department store, while attending Brooklyn College part-time. His family moved to the Crown Heights neighborhood in 1958. After serving in the Army for over two years, he took a bank teller job. Roberts, an Investment Banking major, completed his education at New York University. He went to work for New York Life Insurance, but also began a tax consultant business in his home with help from his wife. For much of the 1980s, Roberts was a local politician and community activist, serving on Community Board Nine as well as related committees. He ran three times for a seat in the New York State Assembly, but never won.

Scope and Contents

Carl E. Roberts discusses the misperceptions of Jamaicans and Jamaican Americans; his educational and professional experiences; and his community activism. He speaks directly about the real and perceived rifts between the Black communities and the Orthodox and Hasidim communities in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, and the personal touches that can improve relations. Roberts offers his insight into the changes in real estate ownership within Crown Heights over several decades and how that affects the neighborhood. Interview conducted by Craig Wilder.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Roberts, Carl E.
  • Rosenbaum, Yankel

Subject Organizations

  • Brooklyn College
  • Community Board No. 9 (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • New York Life Insurance Company
  • New York University

Subject Topics

  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • Blacks -- Race identity
  • Community activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Home ownership -x Social aspects -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jamaican Americans
  • Jewish neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Multiculturalism
  • Race relations -- United States

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)

Rubaszkin, Bella and Gabriel, 1993 May 12

Biographical / Historical

Bella (Biela) Rubaszkin was born in 1933. Observant from birth, she fled her home village of Krolevets, Ukraine as World War II intensified in 1941. She and her family migrated east to Saratov, Russia and then further east until the war's end. She met her future husband Gabriel Rubaszkin, a Russian Jew, in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Religious persecution forced their move to the United States, via several countries. During their five-year stay in France, Bella and Gabriel were married. They arrived in New York in 1954. By 1958, they had settled in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights and began raising a family. By 1993, they were grandparents. They sold their Carroll Street home in 2005, and have since resided in White Lake, New York and Miami Beach, Florida.

Scope and Contents

Bella Rubaszkin discusses some traditions, teachings and social gatherings of the Lubavitcher community. She and her husband Gabriel talk about their displacement in Europe and Russia during and after World War II; the changing ethnicities of their pocket of the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn and changes in where Jews have settled in the New York City area since the 1950s; and the success and job opportunities of their neighbors and relatives. They make their observations on the ethnic and racial tensions of Crown Heights since the 1970s through to the 1991 rioting and the aftermath. In light of her attendance in a college-level political science course, Bella offers her thoughts on the strife within the community and ways of reconciliation. Interview conducted by Jill Vexler.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Dinkins, David N.
  • Jacobson, Simon
  • Rubaszkin, Bella
  • Rubaszkin, Gabriel
  • Schneerson, Menachem Mendel
  • Sharpton, Al

Subject Organizations

  • Brooklyn Botanic Garden
  • Congregation Lubavitch (Crown Heights, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Hasidim -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)
  • Home ownership -x Social aspects -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jews, Russian -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Judaism -- Hasidic rite
  • Persecution -- Soviet Union
  • Race relations -- United States
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Refugees

Subject Places

  • Borough Park (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) -- Social life and customs -- 20th century
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • France
  • Israel
  • Ukraine
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Segall, Aviva, 1993 August 9

Biographical / Historical

Aviva Segall grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, the daughter of Conservative Jewish parents. Aviva first became acquainted with Hasidism at a Lubavitch-sponsored youth event in her hometown at the age of fourteen. Four years later, Aviva met a Hasidic woman at a women's conference in Minnesota who invited Segall to attend her wedding in Crown Heights. She traveled to Brooklyn and formed her first impressions of the neighborhood. She eventually joined other formerly secular woman as baal teshuvah, or "returned Jews," as they immersed themselves into the Hasidic lifestyle of Crown Heights. A couple of years later, Segall got married and began a family with her husband. At the time of the interview in 1993, she was a research assistant on the Crown Heights History Project and a twenty year resident of Crown Heights.

Scope and Contents

Aviva Segall discusses her first contacts with the Hasidic community as a teenager, the events that led to her joining the Lubavitch community, and the differences between her observant Conservative upbringing and her current Hasidic lifestyle. She examines the pros and cons of the secular and religious worlds, life as a baal teshuvah, or "returned Jew," cultural faux pas in the Orthodox enclave of the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, as well as the authority of the Lubavitch spiritual leader, or Rebbe. Race relations, neighborhood transitions, education and politics are all touched on to varying degrees. Interview conducted by Jill Vexler.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Abehsera, Michel
  • Schneerson, Menachem Mendel
  • Segall, Aviva

Subject Organizations

  • Congregation Lubavitch (Crown Heights, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • Education -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Jewish neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish religious education
  • Judaism
  • Judaism -- Hasidic rite
  • Racism
  • Theology
  • Women and religion -- New York (State) -- New York

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Religious life and customs
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) -- Social life and customs -- 20th century
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Ohio
  • New York (State)

Shaffer, Devora, 1993 October 26

Biographical / Historical

Devora Leah Shaffer-Slutzkin (Devori) grew up in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, with her parents and nine siblings. She graduated from Beth Rivkah High School and, at eighteen, attended Beth Rivkah's teacher training seminary and Touro College. She visited international Lubavitcher camps and served as a counselor at a Jewish summer camp in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. She married Reb Doron Slutzkin and resides in Zurich, Switzerland.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Shaffer talks about her day-to-day life as a Jewish Lubavitcher teenage girl; her schooling, teacher training and camping experiences; and living in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights and New York City. Shaffer offers her thoughts on how the Lubavitch coexist with non-Jewish people as well as other ethnic and racial minorities. She speaks of her own and her community's devotion to the Rebbe, how she may meet her future husband, the differences in being Hasidic and being religious, and her immediate reaction to the civil unrest in Crown Heights. Interview conducted by Jill Vexler.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Schneerson, Menachem Mendel
  • Shaffer, Devora

Subject Organizations

  • Congregation Lubavitch (Crown Heights, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Girls -x Education (Secondary) -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jewish religious education
  • Judaism -- Hasidic rite
  • Multiculturalism
  • Race relations -- United States
  • Teenagers -- Religious life

Subject Places

  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)

Simon, Yudi, 1993 September 2

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to this oral history is restricted by the donor. Please contact library@brooklynhistory.org for further questions.

Subject Names

  • Simon, Yudi

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Stock, Martha and Shimshon, 1993 July 20

Biographical / Historical

Martha Sacolick was born on Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn in 1931 to Polish Jews who had immigrated to the states after World War I. In her childhood, the family resided on Herzl Street in Brooklyn and then Stanton Street, Manhattan. She attended P.S. 65, graduated from Seward Park High School, and then took accounting courses. As an adult, she lived in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Borough Park. She met her husband, Shimshon Stock, while working at a belt manufacturer in the early 1950s, and they married in Borough Park. Stock was born into an Orthodox family in New York City in 1929. In his childhood, the family resided in the Rockaway Beach and Brownsville neighborhoods. He and Martha first shared a home in East New York and in 1964, they settled in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. Stock was a community leader, working closely for the Lubavitch Rebbe on more than one occasion. The couple had a son and two daughters. Grandchildren numbered over one dozen. Martha and Shimshon Stock died in 2007.

Scope and Contents

Martha Stock discusses the experience of growing up Lubavitcher and getting a secular education. She talks about her parents' meeting and the experiences of family members who left Poland in the World War I era. Martha is joined by her husband, Shimshon. They review the issues of home ownership in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights and discuss their tolerance, and lack thereof, for African American neighbors. Stock describes the struggle and frustration of anti-Semitism and the Hasidic community's separatism within society. He takes issue with his own community and local, state and national politics. Interview conducted by Jill Vexler.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Cosby, Bill
  • Dinkins, David N.
  • Schneerson, Menachem Mendel
  • Stock, Martha
  • Stock, Shimshon

Subject Organizations

  • Congregation Lubavitch (Crown Heights, New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • AIDS (Disease)
  • Antisemitism
  • Discrimination in housing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Hasidim -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Home ownership -x Social aspects -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Jewish neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Race discrimination -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Race relations -- United States
  • Racism
  • World War, 1914-1918

Subject Places

  • Borough Park (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • East New York (New York, N.Y.)
  • Poland
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Wilson, Dellon A., 1993 November 10

Biographical / Historical

Dellon Wilson was born in Saint Anne, Jamaica and raised in Kingston. In her pre-teens, Wilson moved to Westchester County, New York. After graduating from White Plains High School, she enlisted in the United States Army. This paid for her college tuition to several schools, ending with New York University and Hunter College. She completed an undergraduate degree in theatre and film production and a master's degree in biology. Coming to the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, Wilson moved into an Eastern Parkway apartment in 1980 and worked as a forensic medicine microbiologist in a Medical Examiner's office for eight years. After taking leave from full-time employment due to a job-related illness, she volunteered her time to women's rights and AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome)-related causes. She died in September, 1995.

Scope and Contents

Dellon Wilson, a Jamaican American, discusses her upbringing, training in the Army, schooling in the United States, and an illness that forced her to stop working. She shares her perspectives on racial tolerance and intolerance; relating personal experiences of feeling unfairly judged in her teens, her contemporary viewpoint on the racial and ethnic makeup of the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights community, and the media's portrayal of the charged atmosphere resulting from the auto accident that killed Gavin Cato in Crown Heights. Interview conducted by Jill Vexler.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Cato, Gavin
  • Dinkins, David N.
  • Wilson, Dellon A.

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • AIDS (Disease)
  • Blacks -- Race identity
  • Caribbean Americans
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrants
  • Jamaican Americans
  • Jewish neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Multiculturalism
  • Racism in mass media

Subject Places

  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Westchester County (N.Y.)

Fredericks, Dexter and Huntley, Sereta, 1994 February 12

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to this oral history is restricted by the donor. Please contact library@brooklynhistory.org for further questions.

Subject Names

  • Fredericks, Dexter
  • Huntley, Sereta

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

Return to Top »