When Jewish Neighborhoods Disappeared, Crown Heights Remained

In 1940, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, rebbe of the Lubavitch Ḥasidim, relocated his court from Warsaw to the United States, settling not in one of Brooklyn’s Orthodox enclaves but in the middle-class Crown Heights neighborhood. His son-in-law and successor, the late Menachem Mendel Schneerson, insisted on remaining there long after most of the neighborhood’s non-Lubavitch Jews had left, and despite rising crime rates and urban disfunction. On the 30th anniversary of the Crown Heights pogrom, Dovid Margolin considers the history of this still-thriving Chabad-Lubavitch community:

Then an upper-middle-class neighborhood, Crown Heights had first been settled by Jews in the early 1900s, and by 1940 it was about 40-percent Jewish. Unlike in nearby Brownsville, [whose then-large Jewish community was overwhelmingly working class], many of its Jews lived in elegant brownstones and spacious apartment buildings with doormen. . . . No longer poor immigrants, the Jews of Crown Heights were now American Jews climbing the ladder of success and eager to show that they had arrived. Symbolic was the 1922 dedication of the massive Brooklyn Jewish Center on Eastern Parkway, the first “shul with a pool,” which counted the who’s who of Jewish society among its members.

Demographic changes, destructive social policies (including so-called “urban renewal), and, Margolin notes, “the disappearance of community-based policing,” would change all that:

In the face of an overwhelming tide of inner-city violence and destabilizing social collapse, in the spring of 1969 the rebbe announced publicly that he was not leaving Crown Heights, explaining that Jewish law expressly forbade the abandonment of a Jewish community.

[By the 1990s], the Jews were concentrated in a far smaller geographic area than decades earlier. Similarly, whereas Crown Heights had once contained a cross-section of Jewry, the majority of those who had remained in Crown Heights were Lubavitcher Ḥasidim. Nevertheless, the fact remained: the Jewish community still existed and was even growing, unlike the vanished Jewish communities of Brooklyn’s Brownsville, East New York, and East Flatbush neighborhoods, vast swaths of the Bronx and Queens, and old urban neighborhoods throughout the United States from Boston to Cleveland, and from Philadelphia to Chicago.

Read more at Chabad.org

More about: American Jewish History, Brooklyn, Chabad, Hasidism


Iran’s President May Be Dead. What Next?

At the moment, Hizballah’s superiors in Tehran probably aren’t giving much thought to the militia’s next move. More likely, they are focused on the fact that their country’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, along with the foreign minister, may have been killed in a helicopter crash near the Iran-Azerbaijan border. Iranians set off fireworks to celebrate the possible death of this man known as “butcher of Tehran” for his role in executing dissidents. Shay Khatiri explains what will happen next:

If the president is dead or unable to perform his duties for longer than two months, the first vice-president, the speaker of the parliament, and the chief justice, with the consent of the supreme leader, form a council to choose the succession mechanism. In effect, this means that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will decide [how to proceed]. Either a new election is called, or Khamenei will dictate that the council chooses a single person to avoid an election in time of crisis.

Whatever happens next, however, Raisi’s “hard landing” will mark the first chapter in a game of musical chairs that will consume the Islamic Republic for months and will set the stage not only for the post-Raisi era, but the post-Khamenei one as well.

As for the inevitable speculation that Raisi’s death wasn’t an accident: everything I have read so far suggests that it was. Still, that its foremost enemy will be distracted by a succession struggle is good news for Israel. And it wouldn’t be terrible if Iran’s leaders suspect that the Mossad just might have taken out Raisi. For all their rhetoric about martyrdom, I doubt they relish the prospect of becoming martyrs themselves.

Read more at Middle East Forum

More about: Ali Khamenei, Iran, Mossad