A Changing Crown Heights Marks 25 Years Since Brooklyn ‘Pogrom’
This post originally appeared on JTA on August 15, 2016
By Debra Nussbaum Cohen
Repair the World, a progressive Jewish social justice organization that opened its New York City headquarters in a Crown Heights storefront two years ago, is working to ease the tensions. Among the members of its board of directors is Melanie Lewis, 38, an African-American, who was raised and still lives in the neighborhood where her parents have resided for over three decades.
Growing up she had no communication with Jews, Lewis said.
“Sometimes you’d be at the same park or walk past each other. Who does that? It was ‘why are we so different? Why is everything so isolated?’ There was no one to explain that,” she said.
Young volunteers from Repair the World now work with local black churches, senior centers and community gardens to help build capacity for other volunteers. The group’s storefront space also serves as a community resource, offering help with voter registration and public services, and a venue where community organizations — from an entrepreneurship program for black teens to a Jewish women’s prayer service — meet, said Cindy Greenberg, executive director of Repair the World New York City.
About two years ago, Lewis attended a Repair the World Shabbat dinner that brought together longtime African- and Caribbean-American residents and some of the liberal Jewish newcomers. It was the first time she had the chance to sit down and talk with Jews.