Sunday, November 17, 2013

History- Post World War Two, How Did Entire NY Neighborhoods Become Jewish?

There's an interesting article in the New York Daily News I found in one of my facebook groups, Top of the Court about Growing up in Bell Park Gardens, Bayside, New York.  The person who wrote it is younger than I am, and the family name doesn't seem at all familiar. But we did live there in BPG for some of the same time.

My family was among the original residents.  We moved in on the last day of 1949.  I was a baby then.  I guess that day was chosen, because my parents' rental lease for the little basement flat was probably up, and they couldn't afford to pay for another month.  They spent New Year's for 1950 as owners of a small two bedroom co-op garden apartment on the second floor.

I have no real memories of that apartment, because we moved out pretty quickly to an adorable, though tiny two bedroom duplex, which gave us a backdoor to a garden.  It was almost like having a house, because the apartments next to us were of one floor and didn't have backdoors. A few years later we moved again.  This time was to the largest type of apartment in Bell Park Gardens which had three bedrooms on one floor. Ours had an extra few inches, because there was white siding instead of bricks in the front, the living-room wall.

My memories of Bell Park Gardens, which we left in 1962 when I was thirteen were rather idyllic.  It was a community, very homogeneous, lots of young families of similar backgrounds, lots of Jews.  Almost everyone was Jewish.  At least one of the couple had to be a veteran of the American Armed Forces, army, navy etc. Our parents didn't have accents, but most of our grandparents did.

There were no Holocaust survivor parents I knew of.  It's strange, because I now have friends of my generation who grew up in other New York neighborhoods in which "all the parents were survivors."  They were raised on the tragic family Holocaust stories whether hearing them or the haunted silence of the secrets that were too traumatic to voice.

I only learned of the Holocaust from the media and a bit from Hebrew School (Oakland Jewish Center) when the Diary of Anne Frank was publicized and made into a play then a movie.
First published under the title Het Achterhuis. Dagboekbrieven 14 juni 1942 – 1 augustus 1944 (The Annex: Diary Notes from 14 June 1942 – 1 August 1944) by Contact Publishing in Amsterdam in 1947, it received widespread critical and popular attention on the appearance of its English language translation Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girlby Doubleday & Company (United States) and Valentine Mitchell (United Kingdom) in 1952. Its popularity inspired the 1955 play The Diary of Anne Frank by the screenwritersFrances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, which they subsequently adapted for the screen for the 1959 movie version. The book is in several lists of the top books of the 20th century.[1]
Soon after that was the legendary capture of Adolf Eichmann by Israel.  All this World War Two history was new and amazing for me as a young Jew in a such a peaceful and Jewish New York neighborhood.

One thing I've always wondered about is how Bell Park Gardens and the other then  new developments surrounding it had so many Jewish families.  The advertisements recruiting veterans to sign up for inexpensive housing opportunities were certainly published for the entire veteran population. My fathers stories of his service in the United  States Navy were about being the only Jew, or the only Jew not afraid to admit his Jewish identity. My uncle had similar stories.  So how when such a small percentage of American soldiers were Jewish did these veteran housing projects end up so overwhelmingly Jewish?

If you have an answer, please reply in the comments, thanks.


Joe in Australia said...

It's possible that Jews found it hard to buy homes in other new developments.

Anonymous said...

I think a question just as good is: "Why weren't Anne Frank and her family not admitted to the US along with her father?" I really had to think through the background of the circumstances, specifically that entire shiploads of freedom- and life-bound Jews were turned back to the hell they came from, to perish at Hitler's hand, to come up with that question. I am younger enough than you, Batya, and the area I grew up in different enough, that I had only heard of the Diary and learned what it was about; the Holocaust was never discussed in class until I got to college, but sometimes I would hear adults talking about it, so I knew what it was. Of course a related question is, why didn't America, being the "medinah shel chessed," admit Jews escaping from the Holocaust in the first place?

I could never bring myself to open, much less read, the Diary. Just thinking about it makes me too upset, even to this day, this moment. My Ashkenazic side cries out (don't worry, the rest of me is Jewish too.).

CDG, Yerushalayim

Nu Squares said...

The greatest concentration of Jews in America are clearly situated close to airports and along the coasts in California, New York, and Florida with an increasing migratory focus on PA and Georgia, strangely.

The amount of plagues upon America is astounding. Infrastructure is getting worse. Robbery has become rampant. Crime is endemic. Those trends are quantifiable and consequential.

What isn't so clear are anomalies such as orange cones popping up all over Rockland County, for example, or courageous Hasidim davening at Pakistani gas stations, besides discarded television sets. I've photographed about a dozen TV's sitting on neighbors' lawns since last Winter (due to Fiscal Constraints, they remain Junkyard Art Installations). Any businesses that go bankrupt are acquired by Jewish businesspeople inn Monsey. New Square continues to keep a low profile, but are as influential as Ever. The upstate northeast region is increasingly reminiscent of the Orange communities of Yesha. The skull capped are less wary of venturing outside of Monsey and New Square, I notice, to conduct surveys, i suppose,especially if an electric grid is dangling anywhere throughout Rama[h]po.

Brooklyn friends are advancing in all fields, I've heard, to their surprise. Americans can't help but emulate their Jewish neighbors, these troublesome days. It's a tenuous, if not combustible, partnership.

Chinatowns and overeducated and affulent Asian Americans are picking up the slack, as far as escapegoating goes. They're also buying a lot of Bankrupt Cities. California and Michigan are practically owned by China, frum henceforth.

It's not all bad, but it's not all gut either. Anyway, thought y'all in Shiloh (that's Shomron territory, correct?) would enjoy a novice civilian report from the northeast, excluding PA at this critical time.

Batya said...

Joe, yes, for sure they were poor. But weren't the non-Jews poor, too? One thing was that most of the parents of the young veterans were poor immigrants, and nobody wanted to stay in those awful neighborhoods.
CDG, read the book, or at least see the movie. Anne's father did not make it to the states when his family was alive. He had a visa to Cuba only for himself. He may not have even known of it before they hid. And i hate to break it to you, but the USA isn't "medinah shel chessed" and never was. In the early 20th century it made a quota system for immigrants to keep out Jews.

Anonymous said...

Yes, you're right. I should do one or the other.

I apologize for not having done my homework before saying that Anne's father had reached America. I don't remember how I got the impression that he'd been there.

Don't worry: You didn't break it to me that America was really up to no good. I just didn't realize that it was that bad, or that obvious. If America had admitted the Frank family, we wouldn't have had the Diary, but we would have had something even better: her, and her descendents. Haval!

CDG, Yerushalayim

HolyCityPrayer said...

Fascinating question (to some of us:-) for which I have no educated guess, but I would suggest that the ads might have been general but the sales agents and rumor mills clear that this was for Jews only. Not that non-Jews would be endangering themselves by living among the Jews, but most vets would prefer to belong to other country clubs, if you get my drift.

Batya said...

Sales agents may have been Jewish...
Also, since many of these young parents were children of immigrants and grew up in slums, they wanted out, and eastern Queens was the sticks.