Chapter 4.4: Jews



List of Tables, Maps, Illustrations, and Figures


1. Symbolism, Self and Urban Environment
    Residential Succession: How "Losers" Win
    Negro Pioneers and White Flight
    Relative Selectability among Minority Invaders
    Symbolic History and Self
    Symbolic History: Modern and Ancient Foundations

2. Self Selection and Urban Decay
    The Social Character of the Manor

3. Woodland to City Neighborhood: 300 Years of Change
    Indians, Geology and Transportation
    Protecting the Community: Covenant and Zoning
    Increasing Community Parameters

4. Invasion and Succession

    Irish and Italian Catholics
    Veterans: Undesirable Heroes
    Blacks and the Special Problems of Nonwhite Invaders
    Back to City Brownstones: A Confused Invasion
    The Invasion Mentality

5. Micrological Aspects of Urban Problems
    Involuntary Change: Aging and Death
    Attidues of Heirs
    Apartment Houses: The Big Change
    The Life of a Tenant and a Building
    Understanding Intricate Urban Problems

6. Stigma and Self-Image in the Inner City
    Achievement and Residentia Movement
    The Moral Careers of Inner-City Residents
    The Community Paradigm
    Implications and Applications


The Irish, Italian and other middle-class Catholics who managed to slip into the Manor slowly over the years became part of the community's social fabric, as all invaders eventually do. The Catholic achievers and their more established Protestant neigh­bors in the manor became disturbed in the 1930s when large numbers of middle-class Jewish achievers started moving toward the Lefferts Manor from other parts of Brooklyn and New York City. The geographic route to the Manor by middle-class Jews is almost identical to that taken by blacks thirty years later: from Manhattan, to Bedford-Stuyvesant, to Crown Heights, and then to Flatbush. The desire of socially mobile Jews to move to residential settings that reflected their personal accomplishments is best exemplified by the following discussion from Gerald Green's classic, The Last Angry Man. In this selection, Dr. Sam Abelman tries to explain to his family why he wants to buy a particular house. The street he speaks of, incidentally, is in a residential section of Crown Heights which has attached to it great historical and symbolic notability. It is also only seven blocks north of the Lefferts Manor.

"So you bought a house, did you?" Sarah asked. "Which one, the seventeen-room mansion on Crown Street that needed four thousand dollars worth of repair? Or the one on Union Street where the roof leaked? What lemon did Dannenfelser unload on you, realty expert?"

"Okay so you know!" the doctor shouted. "To hell with it! I, wanted a new house in a respectable neighborhood and I got it. It's the semi-detached three-story brownstone on Republic Street, and I got it for a steal! I'm not backing out and I'm not asking a red cent from anyone to help me get it! Not a word out of you Sarah! You've stopped me long enough from doing things I want--"

"At your age," she said primly, "doing maintenance on a house that size. With a tenant yet!"

"Pop, pop, it's not for you," Harry Platt pleaded. "I've looked it over and I know."

"At least go on the television show and take Mr. Thrasher's money," Eunice implored him.

"Then it won't be so bad."

"What do you know?" the doctor cried.

"What do all of you know? I'm doing it my way this time. I've lived too long to worry about it, and I don't have too long to go. I want to die in a house that looks like a doctor's house, not a goddamn slum surrounding the scum of the earth, who are my darling patients, if you please." (1956: 397)

Some of the Jewish pioneers who moved into the Manor in the 1930s and 1940s tell of open and more veiled anti-Semitism directed toward them by established Manorites. one person interviewed told a story that well represents upper-middle-class "respectable" bigotry practices. It is necessary for ethnic scholars to realize that respectable people do not use common methods to put people in their places. America's Manorites do not stone people, burn crosses, or fire-bomb houses. However, because genteel citizens do not participate in the ordinary repertoire of expressing prejudice, this does not mean that they are less demented than their working-class cousins. The Jewish pioneer spoke of an incident which took place in 1950, and involved her seven year old daughter. Occasionally, the child played with a Gentile neighbor's daughter. One day her child came home to say that she had been invited to her friend's birthday party.

As the parents of the children were not on speaking terms, the invitation was never formally confirmed. On the afternoon of the party, the little girl was prettily dressed by her mother and hesitantly sent off to the party with a gift for her friend. When she arrived at the door, she was politely refused entry by the maid, and came home to her mother in tears. Examples such as this, of ethnic, racial and religious discrimination in Manor social life are often repeated by the invaders with whom I spoke. The only major changes in scripts are the respective ethnic, racial and religious identities of the "victims" and "villains."

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