About Us – The Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative (BJHI):
The Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative (BJHI) serves to promote access to information, documentation, and understanding related to the diversity of the Brooklyn Jewish community currently and in the past, and to provide opportunities for communicating, disseminating, preserving, and celebrating Brooklyn Jewish life and culture.
History and Background of BJHI
There was a missing link in recording our Jewish history in New York. Brooklyn, one of the greatest Jewish communities in our people’s history, had no recorded Jewish history of its own, and no one working on it as a Brooklyn Jewish historical society. So, it was time to move on it.
The first meeting of the Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative on May 20, 2008 was brought together, and chaired by Howard Teich, and it was held in the Conference Room at Brooklyn Borough Hall under the auspices of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. The need had been discussed before, and yet no individuals or groups had come together and sustained the effort.
Many of the people who are on the Advisory today were at that first meeting, suggested from several fronts including particularly James Goldman. Months passed until there was a second meeting, and then meetings continued relatively on a quarterly basis, with each and every meeting held in the Conference Room of Brooklyn Borough Hall.
In 2010, it became apparent that a partnership with the Brooklyn Historical Society, led by Deborah Schwartz who had been sparklingly participating in all the meetings, would be an efficient and effective way to move forward, as a win-win to everyone. Then through a democratic process of the Advisors, the name for the organization was selected as the Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative, as we were a group that took on this project, and wanted to be inclusive of all to make it happen.
We will be placing the minutes of BJHI’s meetings on the website in the near future, and let it just be said that everyone had a role in moving this project along. The exciting moment came when we recognized that in this technological age, in addition to the traditional forums, archiving and so forth, our best efforts could be spent in moving towards setting up a BJHI Website that could be a centerpiece of the Brooklyn Historical experience for everyone, in Brooklyn and throughout the world. And then we were introduced to Paco Levine, a website designer, and you can see the result of our full team (see the List of Advisors).
We made it on a shoe-string, with the early support of Councilmember Michael Nelson and funding from the New York City Council, and the assistance of Charles Kahn, his then Chief of Staff, who was at every meeting. Particular acknowledgment also must go to Ilana Abramovitch, Ron Schweiger, Jonathon Zalisky and Sarina Roffe for their special efforts. And of course our most special thanks to Borough President Marty Markowitz, who was just always there for us. Again, make sure you see our list of Advisors, as everyone made an extraordinary commitment to the reality of BJHI.
This Website will give you an opportunity to be part of the Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative, as it is meant to be a participatory effort of all. And look for our events, and other activities, and be an active part of this new opportunity for the Brooklyn Jewish community, both living here and beyond.
Concept and Purpose
The BJHI is committed to the following efforts to achieve its Mission:
- Working together with the Brooklyn Historical Society, conducting surveys of the field, identifying sources and collecting oral and video histories;
- Creating a world-class website to bring the story of the Brooklyn Jewish community to the world by promoting information and resources, and by creating the possibility for community members, scholars and students to utilize and add to the development of the history;
- Conducting oral histories, and potentially video histories, with the intention of making them accessible on the Internet, and having them catalogued and indexed to resource lists, and permanently added to the BHS archives;
- Producing public programs including lectures, symposia, tours, publications, while also working towards future plans for exhibitions at the Brooklyn Historical Society, of the Brooklyn Jewish community, as well as its place in a multicultural Brooklyn;
The success of the BJHI will be due to its initial broad outreach to diverse elements of the Brooklyn Jewish community, the early support of elected officials, particularly Borough President Marty Markowitz and City Councilman Michael Nelson, and in part to its partnership with the Brooklyn Historical Society, whose track record in documentation, exhibitions, community research, and public programming is stellar. BJHI anticipates further partnerships with community leaders, synagogues, organizations, companies, and other institutions including Brooklyn College, whose faculty has expressed interest in documentation of Brooklyn Jewish life.