Kensington is a predominantly residential area that consists of housing types that run the gamut from brick rowhouses to detached one-family Victorians to apartment buildings. Pre-war brick apartment buildings dominate the Ocean Parkway and Coney Island Avenue frontage, including many that operate as co-ops. The neighborhood has a diverse population with residents of many ethnicities.
All About Kensington – Table of Contents
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Kensington, the area roughly bordered by Coney Island Ave, Caton Avenue, 18th Avenue and McDonald Avenue is a small and easily overlooked neighborhood of Brooklyn. It has long had a vibrant Jewish community.
The Flatbush Jewish Center (now Flatbush and Shaare Torah Jewish Center) has served as a communal anchor since before World War II. It housed the Bialik School, a pioneering Jewish day school, a large supplementary Hebrew school, multiple Hadassah chapters as well as other Jewish groups and has hosted many communal activities.
Today it has a vibrant young rabbi and active outreach program for young families and retired baby boomers, as well as serving as a weekly kosher lunch site. Other social services in the neighborhood address the needs of many local elderly Holocaust survivors. Kensington’s numerous other synagogues including a Young Israel, the well-established Ocean Parkway Jewish Center, many shtibls, yeshivas and small shuls, as well as the synagogue of the Jews of the Caucasus.
Kensington’s mixture of housing stock provides a variety of options which now appeals to Jews of all economic classes. The area’s Jewish population includes young families priced out of Park Slope/Windsor Terrace who are drawn to its newly revived public school. Also dwelling in Kensington are many former Soviet residents, including those from Central Asia and the Caucasus. Other parts of Kensington house many Orthodox families priced out of Boro Park whose conservative life style allows them to live comfortably side by side with the area’s large Moslem population.
The Dime – An Excerpt
The Dime — excerpted from “The Scorekeeper,” a memoir published in 2017 by Joy Media LLC
I never thought of us as poor. We gave to the poor. My grandmother defied arthritic legs trudging from neighbor to neighbor to collect clothing and food for displaced Holocaust survivors in Europe and my mother always found a coin or two of tzedakah to drop into tin pushkas for one cause or another. It was a mitzvah to care for the ”less fortunate.” And while my upbringing bore little resemblance to the idealized family life in the Dick-and-Jane readers New York schools still used in the 1950s, our neighborhood was idyllic in its own way, a place where children walked home from school for lunch as I was doing the day I spotted that dime as I started across Avenue O. “Edward,” my mother said in a tone that told me something I might not want to hear would follow, “have you thought that if you found that dime it also means someone lost it? Maybe it was Joyce from the corner. She eats lunch in school because her mother goes to business. It could have been her milk money?” Was it really worth 10 cents to make anyone cry, least of all Joyce?
Well before anyone used the term, she was a latch¬key kid who had to fend for herself until her mother came home from work, a circumstance that housewives on Ocean Parkway associated with profound misfortune, Fathers worked as a matter of course, but mothers went “to business” only if calamities like widowhood or divorce demanded it. They viewed their own days of shopping, cooking, clean¬ing, and childrearing as a privilege. And why not? They had unhappy memories of life during the Depression and the war before making their way into the lower echelon of “the middle class.” That was a term my mother invoked with pride one moment to attest to how far she had come and resignation the next to acknowledge the modesty of our circumstances. The living room in our three-room ground-floor apartment – “The landlord’s calling it three-and-a-half on the fifth floor now,” she would say – had three functions. It was a second bedroom once we opened the rollaway each night and also served as my father’s home office. His civil service salary – she called it “a fixed income” – did not go far, and they would often argue over how carefully she stretched her “allowance” for groceries and other neces¬sities between paydays.
Date (approximate): 1952
Location (approximate): Ocean Parkway between Avenues N and O