The Arty Semite

A Walker in Brooklyn

By Jenna Weissman Joselit

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Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree

Wiki Commons

In the American Jewish imagination, the curiously named neighborhood known as East New York, Brooklyn, along with that of adjacent Brownsville, are most often associated with the nefarious activities of Murder, Inc. From its headquarters in a candy store at the intersection of Livonia and Saratoga Streets, this Brooklyn gang engaged in loan-sharking, racketeering and murder-for hire, bringing shame and notoriety to the Jewish community.

More benignly, East New York also figured in Alfred Kazin’s lyrical and evocative memoir, “A Walker in the City.” The end of the line, quite literally, it was the place where the subway quit, the place for those “who lived still beyond.” To get from Manhattan to East New York, Kazin writes, was a matter of a “long pent-up subway ride.”

An immigrant Jewish neighborhood, East New York was also home to my grandparents who, on Schenk Avenue in a brownstone that had seen better days, raised my father and his six siblings, all of whom took off for greener pastures just as soon as they could.

But these days, greener pastures can actually be found in East New York, where a non-profit group called East New York Farms has been busy cultivating a half-acre plot of farmland — and in the middle of Schenk Avenue, no less.

Providing the residents of the neighborhood with affordable and healthy food, promoting economic development and generating a sense of community are just some of the organization’s worthy objectives.

How do you like them apples?


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