With Our Thanks:


-Former Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz
-Former NY City Councilman Michael C. Nelson

Councilmembers: -Darlene Mealy, Stephen Levin, Chaim Deutsch, David Greenfield

Sponsors:
-Jim Goldman, Charles Diker, Lloyd Handwerker, Hon Alice Fisher Rubin, Lowell Rubin, Raoul Felder bhs-logo2

Flatbush

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Flatbush_Town_Hall

Flatbush_Town_Hall

 

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Founding Flatbush

Often called “the heart of Brooklyn” due to its central location, Flatbush includes many Brooklyn neighborhoods south of Prospect Park through Brooklyn College campus. With its name derived from the Dutch, meaning “wooded plain,” Flatbush was first settled by Europeans in 1634 and remained rural throughout most of the nineteenth century. As subway and trolley lines expanded, the population of Flatbush grew and in the first half of the twentieth century, this primarily working class neighborhood included many Irish Americans, Italian Americans, and Jews.

Jewish Influence in Flatbush

Flatbush-area Jews have founded Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jewish institutions. The Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, established in 1904, is the oldest yeshiva in Kings County. Other distinguished yeshivot include the Mirrer Yeshiva, originally founded in 1815 in Mir, Belarus, survived World War II, with its students and teachers escaping across Siberia by train to the Far East. The yeshiva reopened in Shanghai, China and then moved to Flatbush in 1950.

Hannah Hirsch and neighbors established the first Reform religious school in Flatbush (1908) and the neighborhood’s first Reform congregation, Temple Beth Emeth of Flatbush (1911), whose building was dedicated in 1914. By the mid-1930s, the congregation boasted one of the largest synagogues men’s clubs in the country. In the 1940’s, one of the shul’s members was Colonel David “Mickey” Marcus –famous American/Israeli war hero. With changing demographics, by the 1990s, merging Reform congregations resulted in the congregation’s current name of Temple Beth Emeth v’Ohr Progressive Shaari Zedek. Today, it is the last reform congregation in Flatbush, and still thriving.

Flatbush also contains a branch of the Shomrim Safety Patrol.  According to Wikipedia, Shomrim (“watchers” or “guardians”) are “licensed organizations of volunteer Jewish civilian patrols which have been set up in Hasidic and haredi neighborhoods in the United States and England to combat crime and antisemitic attacks.” Trained by local police departments and sometimes serving as a liaison between the religious public and police, they also help locate missing people.

Temple_Beth_Emeth_

Temple Beth Emeth

Economic Decline and Rise

In the mid twentieth century Flatbush Avenue provided a world of “mom and pop” stores to which Jews and others strolled and shopped.  After World War II, many changes took place. The adored Brooklyn Dodgers played their last game in Ebbets Field and, after the 1957 season, moved to Los Angeles.  In the same era, many Jews and other whites left Flatbush, moving to suburban areas. During the 1970s and early 1980s, Flatbush experienced a shift in demographics. An influx of immigrants arrived from the Caribbean, as well as South Asia, and Mexico, as the neighborhood became a mostly Black, West Indian community.

While most sections of Flatbush were working class before the demographic shift, there were a few affluent areas, like Prospect Park South. By the mid-1980s, however, there were a number of abandoned or semi-abandoned buildings in the community, as well as apartment houses falling into disrepair. Many of the affluent residents left Flatbush and were replaced by lower income residents. Crime and a drug epidemic ravaged Flatbush during the 1980s and early 1990s.

In the 2000s, Victorian Flatbush gentrified and many Jews have participated, buying houses or condos, and patronizing revived restaurants, businesses plus fashionable cafes and bars.

VIPS of Flatbush

Located in Flatbush, two educational institutions  had many distinguished Jews among its faculty and graduates: Erasmus Hall, the first high school in New York State, and Brooklyn College of CUNY, established in 1930. A selection of Erasmus alumn  includes Betty Comden, Nobel Prize winner Dr. Eric Kandel, Lainie Kazan, Bernard Malamud, Arthur M. Sackler, Beverly Sills, Barbra Streisand, and Eli Wallach.

The faculty of Brooklyn College has included Hannah Arendt, Allen Ginsberg, Itzhak Perlman, and Mark Rothko. Alumni include Alan M. Dershowitz, Sandra Feldman, Paul Mazursky, US Senator Barbara Boxer, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz; New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, Norman Siegel, director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Sam Levenson, Irwin Shaw, and Yossi Klein Halevi, Israeli journalist– among many, many more.

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Sources

Allabray, Nedda C. Flatbush: The Heart of Brooklyn. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2004.

“Flatbush, Brooklyn,” Wikipedia