With Our Thanks:

-Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams
-Former Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz
-Former NY City Councilman Michael C. Nelson bhs-logo2

See and Believe!

BJHI Bike Tours

BikeTour1Author, tour guide and veteran teacher Ellen Levitt has created and conducted two bicycle tours for the Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative. A lifelong resident of Brooklyn, and the author of the trilogy The Lost Synagogues of New York City (Avotaynu), Levitt conducted her tour “Lost Synagogues of Greater Brownsville”, on Sunday, June 14; and her tour “Lost Synagogues of Flatbush and East Flatbush,” on Sunday, August 2.

Levitt led groups of bicyclists through Brooklyn neighborhoods that used to be heavily Jewish, and showed the riders several former or “lost” synagogues and Jewish schools. The group was able to visit inside a few of the sites, so that they could see remaining Judaica on the exterior as well as interior of these buildings.

The tour brought together interested history buffs and avid bicyclists, fans of architecture and nostalgic Jews as well as non-Jews. Stay tuned for future repeats of these tours, as well as a tour that will go through Bed-Stuy and parts of Williamsburg! If there is interest Levitt will also put together a tour of East New York-New Lots lost synagogues.

Summer of 1961 at East 42nd Street between Church and Snyder – Flatbush

By Bruce Friedman

The doorbell rang and I ran down the stairs skipping two steps at a time, then jumped to the landing, yelling: “It’s for me!” My father waited for me at the bottom of the stairs: “How many times do I have to tell you. You don’t have to come down like a herd a herd of elephants. Now go back and come down one step at a time like a person.”

With all the commotion, Jake was already in the kitchen checking the contents of our refrigerator. ‘The Little Tank’ had squatters rights. My friend wore a form fit ‘T’ shirt, garrison belt with custom buckle, jeans and sported a solid gold ID bracelet, a braided gold necklace, wafer-thin watch and a pinkie ring. Jake was a symphony of gold and black.

He looked at me and said: “Don’t get me wrong, I like your mother but there’s never anything to eat in this house!” But he was wrong, we had plenty of food, only it needed preparation. For example the Raspberry Jello. But according to Jake, “If it’s in the box it doesn’t count.” Fortunately it was in the refrigerator. Jake dipped his finger and pronounced: “Liquids don’t count!” Next he spotted a bottle of No-Cal. But he said that No-Cal didn’t qualify as soda, especially if it was warm. But it was my fault, I forgot to fill the ice cube trays.

“We’ve got Swiss Cheese, baloney and deli mustard.” Jake demanded, “Do you have a roll? Or do you want me to wrap it around my finger?” Next he waved his arm and parted the Red Sea, moving the salad dressing and ketchup to uncover a loan can of tuna. I was vindicated but it wouldn’t last. He explained that tuna without mayo, carrots and celery is not tuna.

But at that very moment, he demanded ‘Where’s the salami? I know you have salami, you always have it.” “Not the salami! That belongs to my father.”

Then Jake spotted the chocolate donuts. I grabbed his wrist, ‘Are you trying to get me hung?” He could have anything he wanted except the chocolate donuts, the Breyer’s Chocolate ice cream or the salami. They belonged to my father! Don’t get me wrong, my father was a generous man as long as you didn’t want what he had.

Growing up in Bensonhurst

Sarina Roffe, interviewed May 30, 2012, Brooklyn Borough Hall:

marborotheatreMy favorite memories from growing up in Bensonhurst are playing street ball and street games with our Italian neighbors. I lived on 69th Street between 21st Avenue and Bay Parkway, and all of the kids, and all my cousins would go to the Marboro Theater, and we would go for matinees and my mother would give us fifty cents for the theater and enough money to get popcorn and soda, and we would spend the whole day there. Every Jewish kid in the neighborhood was at the Marboro Theater. It was just the most amazing, amazing thing. After school, we played street games and the Spaulding was our favorite, along with stoop ball. Growing up in Bensonhurst was fun.


by Sonny Crane

craneschipstandHi, As a young boy growing up on Kings Highway in the 50’s, the apartment building we lived in was an eclectic mix of families and quite special. One of the joys I had from my father was his stories of growing up in Brownsville with his father and him running CRANES POTAO CHIP STAND. You could get a hot dog and French fries for 5 cents. Brooklyn was truly a wonderful place for us and I will never forget my memories of the cohesiveness of a tightly friendly neighborhood.

Schmatehs and Cinemas in Brownsville

by Bernard Braginsky, 80

I lived in Brownsville from my birth in 1934 to age 18 in 1953, when my family moved to the tree shaded streets of East Flatbush. Now, at age 80, I think of Brownsville and the people I loved there. My family lived in a railroad apartment in a four story tenement at 175 Osborn Street. Our house was torn down about 1960 to make room for low income projects.

In the 1940s we spent Saturdays and Sundays at the B-picture movie palaces like the Reo on Stone Avenue and the People’s Cinema on Saratoga Avenue. Admission: 9 cents. First run theatres like the Loew’s Pitkin, Loew’s Premiere, and Stadium were beyond our means (and beyond our interest).

My grandfather (zadeh) and father ran a schmateh (rags) business. During World War II, he was buying from peddlers and selling to contractors who in turn sold to the US gov’t. They accumulated a tidy nest egg, all of which evaporated in the late 40s and early 50s with the demise of the used clothing market. During my family’s schmateh days, they stored their inventory in wooden sheds in the backyard of the house we lived in. The sheds had originally been built to hold coal for the stoves replaced long before by steam radiators. After a series of calamities in which my family’s schmateh stock was destroyed by rain and thawing snow leaking through the sheds’ dilapidated roofs, the momentous decision was made to rent a store.

Thus, the business locale was acquired on Powell Street. Here I received my first business experience, going through schmateh pockets to see if a careless seller had forgotten to remove loose change, dollar bills, etc. from them; — in the late 50s, my parents acquired a newsstand, candy, and soda kiosk at the corner of Stone and Belmont. I worked with them on Sunday mornings, arriving at 5 AM to assemble the Daily News, Daily Mirror, Times, Journal American, etc. — also El Diario and the Amsterdam News, in deference to the changing neighborhood. There were a sparse number of Yiddish papers. Standing out in winter’s snow and rain in the predawn dark to assemble the papers, in an increasingly dangerous neighborhood -and with only an empty lot to use as a bathroom — now that’s a memory. As an elementary school kid I started out in PS 84 on Glenmore Avenue, about 3 blocks from home. In September, 1943, my parents enrolled me in Yeshiva Toras Chaim, in East New York, about a 3 mile bus ride from home.

Community Making Sense of 7 Senseless Deaths

By Sarina Roffé

mournersNo father should have to eulogize his child. Gabriel Sassoon had to eulogize 7 of his 8 children.

“Why seven? Seven beautiful lilies,” cried their anguished father, Gabriel Sassoon, during his eulogy. “So pure. So pure.” Thousands of mourners, including the chief rabbi of Israel, attended the emotional service in Jerusalem, as anguished cries came from the crowds.

The caskets, small and large, were lined up in a row, their bodies washed and prepared for burial in white shrouds.

Words cannot express the horrific and devastating loss of the seven angelic children of Gabriel and Gayle Sassoon on Saturday, March 21, 2015. The children were laid to rest in the western hills of Jerusalem, near their former home in Har Nof. They had moved to Midwood in 2013.

A fire had spread quickly through their Midwood home, taking the seven children – four boys and three girls – to heaven. The loss devastated the family and the community, as the news spread as quickly as the fire had, quickly, throughout the world, making international headlines.

Gayle (Gila bat Siporah Frances) Jemal Sassoon, daughter of Fran and Freddie Jemal, and her 14-eyar-old daughter Siporah (bat Gila), jumped from a window and barely survived the fire and were hospitalized in critical condition.  Gaby Sassoon was attending a religious conference in Manhattan and not at home for Shabbat. He did not learn of the fire and the death of his children until the Shabbat ended.

Seven Torah observant children perished. The daughters were: Eliane bat Gila, 16, ‘A”H; Rivkah bat Gila, 11, ‘A”H; and Sara bat Gila, 6, ‘A”H. The sons were: David ben Gila, 12, ‘A”H; Yeshua ben Gila,’10, A”H; Moshe ben Gila, 8, ‘A”H; and Ya’akob ben Gila, 5, ‘A”H.

The Brooklyn funeral took place at Shomrei Hadas Chapels on Sunday, March 22 to mourn the loss of these seven angels, students at Yeshivah Ateret Torah. The loss of so many children from one family had mourners shaking in disbelief.

“I want to ask my children forgiveness. I did my best and my wife did her best. Please, everybody, love your child, love your children, love others’ children… understand them, don’t negate them,” he said.

At the end of the service, a shofar was blown as is Sephardic minhag.The bodies were flown to Israel for burial at Har Hamenuhot, the Mount of Rest, near Har Nof. The chief Rabbi of Israel attended the funeral.

In the meantime, community groups and social service organizations joined hands to help the community understand and come to grips with this tragedy and support the family.

They All Had Faces of Angels


Gayle Sassoon with her children

By Frank Rosario, Kevin Sheehan and Bruce Golding

He wept as he recited the names, saying they are all “angels” now.

A Brooklyn father who suffered the unthinkable loss of seven children when fire ripped through his home brought thousands of mourners to tears Sunday during their funeral.

“They all had faces of angels. Hashem [God] knows how much I love them,” said a sobbing Gabriel Sassoon.

“People forget what’s important in life. My children were unbelievable. They were the best.

“But the truth is, every child is the best. Every child is the most beautiful child there is in the world. Every child is like that.”

The Orthodox Jewish dad broke down as he recited the names of his dead children, ages 5 to 16.

He called them a “sacrifice to the community.”

Continue reading They All Had Faces of Angels

Gita Gansburg, 86, Role Model, Mentor to Thousands of Young Jewish Women

Originally published on Chabad.org/NEWS

Mrs. Gita Gansburg

Mrs. Gita Gansburg, a longtime role model and mentor to thousands of young Jewish women returning to Jewish tradition, passed away in Brooklyn, N.Y. She was 86 years old.

As “dorm mother” at Machon Chana-Women’s Institute for the Study of Judaism in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, Mrs. Gansburg served as a living example of Chabad-Lubavitch life as a wife, mother and friend—influencing generations of young women who went on to become Jewish wives and mothers, and establish their own Jewish homes around the world.

Mrs. Gansburg was born in the former Soviet Union to a noted ChabadChassidic family. Her father, Rabbi Refoel Nachman Kahn, studied at YeshivahTomchei Temimim in the town of Lubavitch, Russia, and was the author of Shemu’os VeSippurim, an authoritative multi-volume compilation of historical accounts and anecdotes culled from the traditions handed down by Chassidim of earlier generations, as well as his own experiences.

At a young age, Gita Kahn immigrated to the Land of Israel with her parents and her younger brother, Yoel, who went on to become the Rebbe’s chozer, memorizing and transmitting the Rebbe’s teachings atSabbath and holiday gatherings, as well as serving as a leading teacher of Chabad thought.

The Kahn family eventually settled in Kfar Chabad, Israel, where Gita married Rabbi Yitzchak (“Itchke”) Gansburg. Together with her husband, she traveled from city to city, where the couple founded many Chabad day schools all over the country. They also founded the first Gan Israel overnight camp in Israel, which Mrs. Gansburg directed for many years.

After they moved to New York in 1976, Mrs. Gansburg was personally designated for her role at Machon Chana by the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. Machon Chana is named after the Rebbe’s mother, Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson.

On learning of Mrs. Gansburg’s passing, numerous former students at Machon Chana took to Facebook to express their sorrow.

Among the many comments were: “She showed so much love and dedication to each and every girl and woman who came through Machon Chana’s doors”; “She was indeed my mentor, mother and role model in my early years ofYiddishkeit”; “My girls regarded her as grandmother”; and “What a kind and special woman she was! She was a bracha (blessing) to every person she touched.”

Mrs. Gita Gansburg was predeceased by her husband in 2006. She is survived by her children, Rabbi Yosef Gansburg of Toronto; Mrs. Nechama Chanin of Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Mrs. Fradie Brod of Israel, as well as many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She is also survived by her brother, Rabbi Yoel Kahn of Brooklyn, N.Y.

The levaya procession will take place today, leaving Shomrei Hadas at 9:45 a.m. It will pass by the Machon Chana dormitory at 1367 President St., where students and alumnae will gather at 10:20 a.m., and will pass by Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway at 10:35 a.m.

VIDEO: Simchat Torah in Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Daily Eagle – Oct. 17, 2014

Remsen St. became a block party on Thursday night as members of the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue and Congregation B’nai Avraham spilled out onto the street to dance with Torah scrolls. They were celebrating Simchat Torah (or Joy of Torah). Simchat Torah marks the cyclical tradition of reciting the closing verses of Deuteronomy, which is the fifth book of Moses, and then starting over with the opening verses of Genesis. Rabbi Serge Lippe of the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue is pictured as he recites the closing verses of Deuteronomy during Simchat Torah. The New York Klezmer Ensemble accompanied the dancers at Brooklyn Heights Synagogue, which is Reform branch. By contrast, at the Orthodox Congregation B’nai Avraham, the men and women dance separately, and sing without musical instruments. Either way, everyone rejoices in the Torah.

Enjoy this video by Dipti Kumar:

Pedi-Sukkah Parade Peddles Through NY



Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct. 7 2014

pedi-sukkohsNEW YORK — In this photo provided by Chabad.org, 10 Chabad-Lubavitch teens on “pedi-sukkahs” ride down Fifth Avenue in New York on Monday. The pedi-sukkahs, are modified pedi-cabs with a Sukkah — a hut-like structure covered with bamboo — attached in the back. The goal of the parade is to create awareness for the upcoming Jewish holiday of Sukkot, a seven day, biblically mandated holiday ends after nightfall on Oct. 15. The pedi-sukkahs were designed by Brooklyn teen Levi Duchman.