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!

My Friend Louie

Submitted by Bill Morgenstern

It was 1933 in the middle of the depression. Sam, my father had found out in October, 1929 that his entire fortune was wiped out. He would need to liquidate his successful curtain rod factory with 600 employees to pay for the margin call.

Although Sam was a moderately religious Jew he did not fit the stereotype of that period and although he was born in the Ft. Greene section of Brooklyn (on farmland with a pedestrian toll bridge going to their property) he spent some time up in Norman, Oklahoma. My father was an excellent horseman and could rope a steer. Otherwise he was the gentlest person that I had ever known. He was also an expert on nature, animals and he knew the Latin name of almost any tree or plant.

I am told that one day when I was very young he took me on a trip to Norman, where he had me on his lap on the horse. We were supposed to go to a small town outside of Norman when suddenly the horse stopped cold and refused to move. When I was old enough to understand and heard my father relate the story to friends I learned that some animals, especially those that are domesticated have a special sense of danger. It seems that when we got back to Norman dad’s friends couldn’t believe that we had survived the tornado that leveled the town that were supposed to go to.

Although he studied medicine he was of fended by the crude practices of the medical profession at the time, especially what he conceived of the crude treatment of children in the hospitals. Still, he had surgeon hands and could slice meat or turkey paper thin. During World War II he did volunteer work for the Red Cross and he did research for Dupont.

Dad was a superb fisherman and outdoorsman. On weekends he would take me to Kensico Reservoir in New York where we would fish for Bass. I even learned how to find and handle Copperhead snakes, once bringing one home to my mother in the trunk of the car. I was saved from a beating but Dad got yelled at.

Jeanne was my mother and she had a sister and two brothers. One of her brothers came back from World War II surviving the Battle of the Bulge with no interest in going into the family business. His brother Sam led an unbelievable life. At age 12 Sammy was hit in the eye with a snowball which had traces of a diseased horse in it. This caused him to get horribly sick. He set a record up to the time that it happened as to the number of diseases residing in one person’s body.

Although Sam survived the ordeal his eyes and his eyesight were destroyed completely. With the support of his family he graduated college, played the saxophone, married and had three fine children. Sammy refused the use of a Seeing Eye dog and he managed to get around with a cane. Eventually he opened up a newsstand on 48th Street and Broadway in Manhattan. He ran this stand successfully for many years travelling back and forth by subway to his home in the Bronx. He was a great fan of the Yankees and he would sit in front of the TV set (why not the radio we never really knew), always claiming that he could out manage whoever the current manager was.

I was born on Henry Street in downtown Brooklyn, which today is quite an upscale neighborhood. Mom came here from Paris at the age of 2 and Dad was born in Brooklyn. It was said that my grandparents had to leave Paris very quickly as my mother had pushed a bottle of milk down from their second floor window sill, killing a horse standing in front of the building. They could be characterized as Roaring Twenties Flappers My families’ friends were truly International: Mexico, Syria, Lebanon, Hungary, Latvia, Ireland and Italy and my mother cooked in all languages.

The Syrians especially came for her baked Kibbe which they said was better than they had in Damascus. The Metres family who I considered my aunt and uncle were fascinating. Theresa was a living angel. Her father was a general in the Mexican army. She eloped with Jim Metres, who was from Syria and the Mexican army chased them to the border. Uncle Jim would honor me in later years by allowing me to play Pinochle with him and my father, Aunt Theresa made the best Chicken Mole which when made right I love to this day. During the depression my parents fed many a jobless and very poor family.

From there we moved to the Bronx where my grandparents had a well known Appetizing store on Allerton Avenue (smoked lox, sturgeon, Beluga Caviar, homemade pickles in a barrel, fancy canned goods and exotic candies and nuts). If I was about 5 years older I probably could be running my Grandparent’s appetizing store. It was a little fancier than Russ & Daughter’s. The pickle barrels were out front.

When you entered the store there was the long counter on the right with the lox, sturgeon, caviar, herrings, and pickled herring. The lox was sliced tissue paper thin. Everything was the best. On the left side a table with Halvah and trays of exotic candies and nuts from all over the world. As you went down toward the rear were the cans of premium brand sardines, anchovies, salmon, tuna and chickpeas.

The Peacock brand was wrapped in a fancy purple cellophane paper. In the rear was a large freezer and a room with a table a nd chairs for the extended family to eat. 20 The pickles and pickled herring were prepared in the basement by Grandma. We lasted only a little over a year there because my mother found out the building that we lived in was infested. Not by bugs or vermin but by Communists. So it was back to Brooklyn in a nice neighborhood in the Flatbush section.

I was in the 5th grade and Public School PS 92 was around the corner. I remember a cool day when we were lined up in the school yard. The line was moving slowly (forgot where it was going but probably we were going to register). This guy behind me starts kicking me in the back of my shins every once in a while. Finally, I turn around glaring at him
and he smiles and says: “Can’t you talk?” So that was the beginning of our long friendship.

So, now it turns out that Louie Dinolfo Jr. (Louis to his family) lived diagonally across from where we live. His family had a house and my family had a 5th floor apartment. Until I went off to college we spent lots of time i n each other’s houses. We adored each other’s families. At one point we put up a wire across Clarkson Avenue attached to tin cans so that we could talk to each other without the phones.

We had lots in common from Baseball to getting in trouble, which Louie was ALWAYS the instigator. In school I was in trouble from day 1. Louie sat directly behind me and would manage to get me in trouble with our home room teacher Ms. Breslin. There used to be large ink bottles to be used to fill the inkwells in the desk s. Ms Breslin loved her plants which were near the windows to the left of our desks. Louie’s idea was to have me pour the ink into the plant dirt and he would warn me if the teacher turned around. So what does my friend do? He tells me to go ahead just as she is staring down at me.

Hell to pay. I’m marched into the principal’s office and my mother is called. My mother was the only person that I feared on earth. In those days there was no such thing as ‘time out”; you got smacked. But even she had to laugh when Ms. Breslin shouted: “It’s either HIM or ME that’s leaving this school.” Things calmed a little bit and although we were both Yankee baseball fans the Dodger stadium (Ebbets Field) was just a few blocks from where we lived.

The bleachers were 55 cents and sometimes a kind usher would let us sit in the grandstand. Even better my synagogue (Judea Center) and his church (Holy Cross) were giving out free tickets on alternate weeks. So first Louie and I line up at Judea Center and get our tickets and the next week we go to Holy Cross. Louie says that when the Nun with the tickets comes to me I should ask her if we could get better seats. (It took me a while to learn with Louie that he always had something planned.).

The nun is in front of me. One hand was holding the tickets and the other hand was holding a 12 inch ruler. What in the world was she going to measure? I smile. Sister. Is there an y chance that we can get better seats?”. She gives me a fierce look that I can picture to this day. “Hold out your hands”. WHACK! She slams the ruler with that metal piece inserted (I guess to draw lines with) on my hands and the stinging is unbelievable. I knew there and then that there was no way I would ever become a Catholic.

The memories of the games that we saw were great however. After school, weather permitting we played all kinds of ball games with a pink ball that we called a Spaldine. A Spaldine was a little smaller than a tennis ball but it had a lot of bounce. It was especially effective when you played Stoop Ball. That is where you threw the ball aiming at the point of one of the steps on the stoop. (the stairs going up to the doorway). That beside games of marbles, Hide and Seek, Ringaleevio, Johnny on the Pony, Stickball, punch ball and others was what we enjoyed..

One day it was just the two of us playing stick ball. Louie hits one over the fence into a yard. (Louie was an excellent ball player) This little mean looking kid picks up the ball and puts it into his pocket, Hey! Throw that ball back over here we yell. “You want the ball come here and see if you can take it from me.”

Well, he was kind of small so it didn’t take the two of us to get the ball back. (Of course who do you think was egging me on). Now Louie and I are of course known in the neighborhood as two wild characters. Doesn’t this guy know that? We are now face to face. All of a sudden the blows are coming from out of nowhere. This little runt is beating the crap out of me. Louie is laughing hysterically. We didn’t get the ball and when I realize that street fighting is not boxing.

I then decide to take boxing lessons and eventually join the Boys club on Avenue A and 10th St. in Manhattan in order to learn the art of boxing. Even though I am slow on my feet and my father advised me against it I pay him no mind. In fact one night I come home from a match with a bandage over my right eye where I had received a cut.

My mother was playing cards with her group. She looked up at me as I walk into the apartment and she tells her card group that she will be right back. Mom then stands up, motions me to the bedroom, closes the door and from the floor her hand comes flying up and hits me across the face. As I go reeling across the bedroom she states that my boxing career has just ended. And it did.

Both of Louie and I were great Babe Ruth fans. The Babe was dying of Cancer and he was giving a farewell speech at Yankee Stadium. It was a sunny Mid June day. Our seats were in the grandstand. His voice was pitiful and his uniform hung sadly over what were once very broad shoulders. It was sad but we were glad that we went.

During our late lunch at a Chinese restaurant we commiserated over the fact that despite his foibles he would have made a great manager since he had an instinctive knowledge of t he game and its players. 20 Louie and I had many adventures.

The superintendent of our building was a mean Norwegian Nazi. There was a large center table in the center of our apartment building and Louie lifts one end and then lets it down with a large bang. Mr. Nelson the super comes running out and he smack me. We then did everything we could to torture him from hitting him with snowballs, from even getting our friend Sid Gordon who was a famous ballplayer that lived across the street to fire snow balls at his head to turning over the garbage cans filled with used coal, which he brought from the basement.

When we were creating mischief sometimes the police would chase us but we knew every back alley and hiding place in the neighborhood. They never could catch us. Louie got me fired once from my job delivering dry cleaning, when he grabbed the cleaning and dumped them in a garbage receptacle, so when I delivered the dry cleaning they stunk like you wouldn’t believe. No surprise that I was immediately fired.

On Fridays I would load up on candy from the money that I received as tips. There was this local candy store on the corner where were well known and friendly with the owner. One Friday Louie is bragging to the owner that I could eat a dozen ice cream sundaes with nuts, whipped cream and Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup. Joe, the owner said that if I finished them within an hour they would be free and I’d get a couple of dollars to boot. Joe obviously didn’t know who he was dealing with. I finished them all with 5 minutes to spare. I wasn’t feeling too well but our crazy friend Fitz (Fitzpatrick) got so excited that he ran into the street (Bedford Avenue, a busy street) and was nearly was run over by a car. Amazingly he ended up stretched out under the car and he was unhurt.

The day that the Korean War broke out four of us went to the Marine recruiting station to volunteer. Lou and I were too young but the other two were accepted. Sadly these brave Marines were both killed at the famous Chosin Reservoir battle near Hagaru. Eventually Lou ended up in the Air Force and I was the army.

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: