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Brooklyn Jewish
Historical Initiative

Crown Heights

Post-war changes in Crown Heights decisively re-shaped the demographic and geographical makeup of the neighborhood, and made it what it is recognizable as today. 


770easternparkwayGeography and Demographics

Originally called Crow Hill, the community encompasses areas north and south of Eastern Parkway, as designed by Frederick Law Olmstead. Located in Central Brooklyn, Crown Heights is home to many Jews. Hasidic Jews represent about 25 percent of the Crown Heights population. The neighborhood also contains a mix of Caribbean immigrants from Jamaica and the West Indies as well as some African Americans.

Organizations in Crown Heights

There are approximately 40 synagogues in Crown Heights including the Bobov, Chovevei Torah and main synagogue of the global Lubavitch movement at 770 Eastern Parkway. The community boasts the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, the Jewish Children’s Museum and the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.

Girls and boys are educated in separate schools. The main yeshivas are Crown Heights Yeshiva, Yeshiva of Eastern Parkway, and Reines Talmud Torah. Girls’ schools include Beth Rivkah Academy, Bnos Menachem, Bais Chaya Mushka and Bnos Chomesh. Boys’ schools include Oholei Torah and Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim.

Ethnic Diversity in Crown Heights

During the 1960s and 70s, Crown Heights residents had issues with its racial and cultural mix. On the national scene, there was much turbulence due to the civil rights movement and Vietnam. Declared a poverty area by the Johnson administration, violence often erupted.

Despite this, the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneersohn urged his followers to stay in the community after other whites left. In the years to follow, other riots broke out and there was conflict between the strictly observant Hasidic Jews and the majority black population. Many efforts were made to bridge the gaps through civic involvement by both groups.

VIPs of Crown Heights

Crown Heights has produced many important Jews, including outgoing Borough President Marty Markowitz. Singers include Avraham Fried, Matsiyahu Miller, Kendall Schmidt, and Mendy Werdyger. The neighborhood also produced Comedian Mendy Pellin, Songwriter Carl Sigman, and Novelist and Author Norman Mailer. There are also many faomous or notable rabbis including Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Gavriel Holtzberg, Simon Jacobson, Yosef Jacobson, Yizhak Ginsburg, and Aaron Raskin.

Now in the 21st century, Crown Heights is the center of urban renewal and gentrification.

Crown Heights in the News

Google Glass Film Spotlights Crown Heights:
On a Sunday evening earlier this month, the Mister Rogers in Crown Heights played host to the neighborhood’s primary residents—West Indian Blacks with waist-length dreads and baggy jeans, and Hasidic Jews in black hats and sheitels. They mingled while huddling over tables stocked with fresh bread smothered in hummus and cups full of Jamaican-style coconut and pastrami soup. Photos of Crown Heights lined the restaurant’s walls, alternating between depictions of Yeshiva boys on a school bus with Rastafarians playing basketball in Sterling Park… read more

A story by Howard Roberts:

Since this is a group about Brooklyn I will share a mini memoir entitled Crown Heights Chronicles that I wrote several years ago about my accidental trip back to my old neighborhood and the memories it stirred.

Warning: It’s long.
Crown Heights Chronicles
(c) 2005 By Howard R. Roberts
All rights reserved.


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