There’s a new Hasidic Montessori school for elementary boys in Crown Heights and creative women are behind the change.
Lamplighters Yeshivah opened two years ago, driven by a group of Crown Heights parents who “allowed themselves to dream; to envision a new holistic educational experience for their children,” the school’s website says.
Lamplighters is a small school of 40 students still in its early seedlings, yet it has tripled enrollment since its inception in 2010. Although the school includes a mixed-gender preschool, the revolution lies in its boys’ lower elementary class, which is challenging the mainstream institutional approach. The curriculum includes child-directed learning centers, art and Montessori materials to integrate Torah and secular subjects. It also caters to parents and children who are not satisfied with the status quo. (The other Hasidic boys’ schools in Crown Heights do not teach any English subjects, at least not until fourth grade.)
Lamplighters celebrated its innovative approach at a December event for 400 women called “In the Glow: Basking in the Light of Creative Jewish Women” that featured Hasidic women artists, performers and entrepreneurs, plus comedian Yael Hanover as emcee.
In Crown Heights, a neighborhood that has recently seen lots of change in its population, an article on the Lubavitch website COLLive has sparked a bonfire of reaction. An anonymous “open letter,” titled “Take Back Our Neighborhoods,” urges Jewish landlords in the heavily Lubavitch and West Indian neighborhood not to rent to non-Jews, as it describes their immodest ways:
Friends, we pay a premium to live in this neighborhood, and we strive to create an atmosphere of holiness and kedusha for our children and teens. These yuppies bring pritzus [Sisterhood translation: immodesty, with overtones of whorishness] to our neighborhood. They come out at night to our restaurants and act inappropriately while waiting on line etc.
We would hope that landlords, especially the Crown Heights landlords, would put a priority on our values, but sadly the need to make money is taking precedence for them. Some young agents and landlords will specifically rent to these goyim instead of a fellow Jewish family. Sadly, some homeowners have gone so far as bringing these yuppies as tenants in their home in prime locations.
The article author points to things like suntanning gatherings on the rooftops of local buildings, at least one of which was visible to students at a Lubavitch school, and recommends forming a committee, as the Satmars have in nearby Williamsburg, “to curb this issue.”
It looked, this week, like there might be progress for women in Saudi Arabia.
King Abdullah granted women the right to vote, and to run for election to municipal councils and be appointed full voting members of the Majlis Al-Shura, a government advisory group. According to a New York Times editorial this week, however, women will still need the approval of a male family member.
And of course women are forbidden to drive in Saudi Arabia. As the Times opined:
The list of fundamental rights still denied to Saudi women is long and shameful. Men — their fathers or husbands — control whether they can travel, work, receive health care, attend school or start a business.
Four men accused of raping a young Jewish woman from Crown Heights over a period of eight years have been indicted according to news reports. The reports say that the Jewish woman was just 13 years old when the attacks began, and that the alleged perpetrators in the case had also sold her to other men for sex. Three of the four men have criminal records.
The New York Times story details how the teacher of a class the young woman was taking at John Jay College of Criminal Justice helped convince her to turn to the authorities and report her story.
The saga began when the girl was allegedly raped by two of the defendants in a public park. But what none of the stories I’ve read so far have addressed is how this could happen for eight years to a young girl who lived in the midst of the relatively tight-knit Lubavitch Jewish community of Crown Heights without anybody knowing. It’s difficult to understand how the girl’s mother, at least, could have not known that something was terribly, terribly wrong. I hope the case prompts the men and women of the Crown Heights Jewish community to ask themselves the same questions.
Penina Roth is an atypical Lubavitcher; she once worked as a wardrobe stylist for music videos and was a literary groupie before launching the popular Franklin Park Reading Series last year. Located at a bar of the same name in the steadily gentrifying neighborhood of Crown Heights, Brooklyn the series boasts an impressive collection of readers and performers, from bestsellers to unknowns. Some of her readers previously featured in the Forward include Dani Shapiro, Amy Sohn, and Teddy Wayne.
Allison Gaudet Yarrow spoke recently with Roth about the changing face of Crown Heights — a neighborhood that Hasidic and Caribbean families have long called home — and what it means to bring an infusion of literary arts to the area.
Only men — over age 20 if they’re married or 30 or older if they’re not — are permitted to vote for the new leadership of the Vaad Hakohol (Community Committee), which runs the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council. The CHJCC runs and facilitates access to government programs like food stamps and housing subsidies, and serves as a clearinghouse for the local Jewish community, as well as represents it to government officials.
The voting rules that require the one representative of a local Jewish household to be male means that women who are divorced, widowed or never married have no voice in choosing their communal representatives.