JEWS OF BROOKLYN

Ilana Abramovitch, Editor, Sean Galvin, Editor . Univ. Press of New England/Brandeis $39.95 (400p) ISBN 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 population shifts, synagogues and egg creams alongside personal experiences of community, this encyclopedia the variations are a metaphor for the broad spectrum of experiences of a people in a place. Major themes in traditional Brooklyn-Jewish life—food, tolerance, politics, pride, poverty, family—pull together the shifting perspectives of this wonderful reference. The neighborhoods, shops, institutions and characters examined here are imbued with a tangible identity: Brighton Beach, for example, where hot knishes were sold to weary bathers spending the day playing handball, or Williamsburg, where Hasidim still parade righteously drunk through the streets on Purim. Many entries, such as PW publisher Fred Ciporen's intimate portrait of a family's thoughts "On Wisconsin," present Brooklyn as a self-contained realm that sees the rest of the world as another universe. From the deep happiness displayed in Eve Jochnowitz's essay on the making of shumra matzo for Passover to the deep passion of a seltzer man for his authentic product in Zachary Levin's contribution, Brooklyn Jewry's commitment to the details of its traditions is shown. Discussions of Danny Kaye, Murder Inc., Sam Ash and integrated clubs in the time of "separate but equal" foster an understanding of the borough's impact beyond its borders. Readers will be pulled in by an intoxicating nostalgia for this multifaceted locale's personality, even if they've never been there. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 12/17/2001
Release date: 11/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
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