In describing the pugilistic antics of his older brother, Harvey, Jerome Charyn evokes painful memories of bias in Brooklyn. To be sure, my Jewish friends in Williamsburg excelled in their studies and some starred in sports; but as fighters we proved less than potent. One exception, however, deserves mention.
When a near pogrom visited our neighborhood in 1947, I watched a remarkable act of courage from the safety of my second-floor apartment window. A gang of tough teenagers, primarily Italian, challenged a group of our somewhat older Jewish friends to a brawl. Everyone refused to battle except for Jesse Alexander.
Built like a fireplug, he played football on our local sandlot team. He offered to fight one and all, individually. The challenge accepted, he proceeded to punch his way to local iconography, leaving a host of opponents with black eyes, swollen faces, bloody noses and bruised egos. The bullies retreated to their own turf.
I remember Jesse Alexander with much pride and not a little shame. Nobody from our community rushed to support or to defend our gallant warrior. Yet, thanks to his courage on that memorable day, our Jesse joined a host of “glorious brothers” of Jewish heroes named the Maccabees. Jewish police officers proudly linked with the Shomrim Society continue that tradition.
Joseph Dorinson Kings Highway, Brooklyn