Weekly Specials Banner
Posted to Op-Ed on
|

Letter: Crown Heights Is Not What It Used to Be

CrownHeights.info received the following letter from a Shliach, a Crown Heights native, who spent a couple of weeks in the neighborhood for the first time in over ten years. This is what he wished to share:

There’s a song I remember hearing as I child in my mother’s kitchen. In “those days” we didn’t even have a cassette player in our home, therefore I believe I heard it playing from the small black radio in the Kitchen (the only “advanced” equipment we had in the entire home – even the fridge was way older than us). Remember the Art Raymond Simcha Show?

The song is in Yiddish & it goes something like “my Shtei-ta-le Belz”. In it the singer reminisces about his childhood city Belz which was a beautifully Jewish place.

A song is a song, not always does it totally match reality. It certainly brings out certain feelings or emotions. A song does have the power to relate a story, a certain state of being; an imagination of what was or should be.

There’s a story told about 2 Yeshivah Bochurim who were away in the “big city” (let’s call it Warsaw) which had a large Jewish community and was known for its great Torah institutions. Upon returning home to the little Shtetel they were surrounded by the curious townspeople who were eager to hear what life was like in the Groiser Shtetel – for a Yid & his Yiddishkiet.

While one Bochur related the “wonders” of this spiritual mecca, so many shuls Shiurim & institutions of Tzedakah. The others account was very bleak. After all “how could Yidden live their whole life in this metropolis with so many theaters and so much Goiyishkiet”. He described how challenging it was to fight off all the distractions.

I had the privilege to spend this past YomTov Succos in Crown Heights together with my family. Because of the many negative stories I heard & read over time, I imagined to expect to see a CH which I didn’t grow up in. The people I speak with and the articles I read over the past 10 years could not be making things up. Certainly people are not just deliberately being negative. Right?

Wrong!

I haven’t really been to CH for 10 years. Yes, I usually make it to the Kinnus & come in for Gimmel Tammuz & the occasional Simcha. But that’s not really “being” in CH. This time I spent an entire 2 weeks in the schuna I grew up in.

I was amazed at and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. How nice it was to see an Erev YomTov with the streets hustling & bustling with people going to & from stores, Shul, buying Lulav n Esrog & building Sukkos. For my children it was the first time they have seen so many Sukkos (and Jews; let alone Frum ones)!

Of course one also couldn’t help but notice certain things which perhaps need improvement. But the reality I saw was one of Yiddishliet, chassidishkiet and friendliness. Just to walk in to shul & see all the various printed material – for all levels. (By the way, somebody would do very well investing in a Shaimos Service; forget high-tech. In CH this is the wave of the future).  All the notices for Shiurim and the many places available to the public for learning.

To walk in the street on Yom Tov and to see so many Yungeliet with their families coming out of the so many different  Shuls. To see all the young Bochurim going out on Mivtzoim, Whether via Sukkah Mobile or Subway. To dance at Simchas Beis Hashoeiva or join Farbrengens or even just to visit with family & friends.

I came to the pleasant conclusion that indeed Crown Heights is NOT what it used to be. Its actually better! Sure, there are problems & issues which need to be dealt with. However, “Ah Gast Oif A Vail Zet Oif A mile”. I saw more than one mile. Miles! Miles of expansion. Miles of good. Miles of Chassidishe warmth!

Before you react to how naïve this all sounds. Please take a few minutes to learn the Sicha of Our Rebbe in Likutei Sichos Chelek Yud on Parshas Noach. Like I said, there are many things which MUST be addressed & corrected. Certainly I didn’t agree with nor enjoy everything I saw. But the overall sentiment I have, is expressed in my words above.

“My Shtetale Crown Heights”! With all your issues. With all your problems. There’s none like you! I love you My Shtetale Crown Heights! You are a true Chabad place! Everybody has a place and comfort in you even if he or she is not perfect in every way.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Avrohom Brashevitzky, Chabad of Doral, Florida

49 Comments

  • 6. Signed! wrote:

    I don’t get what he wrote but I do see that he signed his name.

    Kudos for that!

    Boruch Makeh Rayayhu B’Golui !!!

    Reply
  • 7. lubavitcher wrote:

    No fair! I thought the article would have juicy lashon hara or at the very least be negative! :) Misleading title!

    Reply
    • 8. Be Positive wrote:

      do u want it to be negative???
      be happy that it’s positive and not what u thought.

      but ya I agree the title is a bit misleading… it should be changed to a positive one

  • 13. How nice wrote:

    I’m usually one of the jaded people who see Crown Heights’ problems. This has made me look again at the positive. Thank you for that!

    Reply
  • 14. CH resident wrote:

    Being a regular on these news web sites when I saw the title i sighed “here we go again” But no… I was treated to a positive beautiful article…Most refreshing and up lifting. Thank you …thank you…thank you

    Reply
  • 16. Anonymous wrote:

    How nice to read! I share your sentiments – Crown Heights is home. It’s beautiful to me. No place is perfect but there is so much beauty and depth and spirituality here.

    Reply
  • 18. CH MOM wrote:

    Thank you for seeing the good in our community. Yes, we have changed a lot. Yes, a lot needs improving. Still, CH is a great place to live & I’m proud to have grown up here & raise my own kids here now.

    Reply
  • 19. Socal wrote:

    Ok….here goes.
    Yes, our Rebbe teaches that Cham would’ve seen what only needs Tikkun etc. Instead he only focused on what’s wrong that’s why he wasn’t blessed….
    A beautiful “Raycheh” sicha i”ve given over many times.

    And I’m very happy our Shliach had a good time during YT, he and his family surely deserve it and much more…
    which Shliach who lives in the boondocks wouldn’t enjoy a choice of 1) shuls, not having to worry about a full minyan, torah publications all over 2) food establishments 3) plenty of kapote wearing, angelic yiddishe kinderlach, good olé frum Yidden crowding the streets, dancing at Simchass bais hashoeva, with full ear drumblasting chasidishe music till morning,
    A shuk of Arba minim, all the haoros and sichos you can fill your kapoteh with etc etc etc
    Contrast that with the environment he and his beautiful family are used to dealing with
    A chabad house minyan (enough said- der aibishters kinder)
    little choice of food if any,
    a bunch of Florida type goyim and shiksas parading the streets,
    noise (can’t call it music) assaulting ones ears in the streets,
    shmutzikeh publications given out free thrown at your doorstep etc etc.

    Yes CH, Kan Tziva, is a Frum Jewish neighborhood.
    Ashreichem.
    A mechaya B’geshem U’beruach

    Now,

    go into 770 and see if you can stomach it. Tell your kids. This is the Rebbe’s shul

    Try to Find a normal competent friendly Rov who you can look up to (and get a shaala answered

    see if the yeshivos (with 1000 plus students) are producing lomdim and maskilim or even Boys who are proficient in Ivreh and know how to daven from the omud a simple shabbos davening. (from the products who come to me- they simply cant)

    Look at the manner of dress. Or lack therof. And see if that’s what u want your children to emulate.

    Ask yourself why CH is the only frum neighborhood in Brooklyn that you have to move your car every single day (except wed) and other places like BP, willy and flatbush, have “street cleaning” once a week?! Ask where is the community council and what do they do for the “shchuna” besides photo opps with potential political candidates
    For that matter ask a yungerman where he gets his – food stamps, heap, medicaid etc.? In CH or willy??

    And more than anything- Reb Shliach. Look at the Sholom, achdus and machlokess-free environment your kinderlach are missing out on by not living in the heilige shchuna.

    And yes I do miss Art Raymond….

    Oh….nice touch…the name signing thing.

    Reply
  • 20. Seeing the forest but not the trees wrote:

    I once visited a forest. While was immersed in the panoramic view of the forest I did not notice the trees. I overlooked numerous individual trees because I was distracted by the forest.

    As a guest you do not notice the many trees in our shchuna. Some of the trees are dead. Others are diseased. There are many rotten trees. A few are poisonous.

    As a guest you see only a beautiful and magnificent forest. But as a “forest” dweller I sadly see the individual trees that make up the forest.

    Reply
    • 21. You are a squirrel living in a nut tree wrote:

      You say you are a forest dweller, I think you a squirrel, and you live in a nut tree.

      We have two eyes – one eye to see the good in others (including CH) and the other to see our own faults. It seems to me that you mixed up your eyes.

      The cup is both half full and half empty. The thirsty person appreciates the half fullness of the cup.

      Drink, but first make a brocha thanking Hashem for it all and then say l’chaim to include others.

  • 22. Anonymous wrote:

    beautifull article Avremel. by the way, you can drop off shaimos all year round at the Crown Heights Shipping Center on Albany Ave.

    Reply
  • 24. Eli wrote:

    The previous Modzhitzer Rebbe Z”TL was somewhat a Zionist. One time one of his Chassidim spoke disparagingly about Eretz Yisroel and its inhabitants. The Rebbe replied, “who says you’re the one who didn’t find favor with the land of Israel, perhaps the land of Israel didn’t find favor in you?!”

    Reply
  • 25. st wrote:

    It HAS changed…..however, we have to see the positive, and keep moving, do the best we can, which is what the Rebbe would want….and it is the way of Jews, and healthy people, to keep moving and doing the best we can. Those who are not as frum, still love Torah and the Rebbe, and do mitzvos, chesed, and more. Hold on, Moshiach is coming AD MOSSAI

    Reply
  • 26. miss crown heights like crazy wrote:

    Theres nothing like crown heights and the energy flowing through those streets!!!

    Moved on shlichus after living there for just couple years and miss it soooo strongly!!!

    Reply
  • 27. North Miami Beach wrote:

    Please be reminded in Florida we do have a “little shetal of belz” in North Miami Beach….This is without machlokas, dressing issues, tzinius…Under the leadership of Rabbi Marlow…kol tuv great article…
    NMB member….

    Reply
  • 28. to 18 wrote:

    Oy,

    And there are those that severely lack the very ahavas yisroel that the Rebbe exuded every second. Chas vesholom to talk like that- that a yid is rotten! There are many yiddejn struggling, in pain, or numb, it’s called golus. But you answer this- how did the Rebbe see jews who let’s say were distant? (And I am sure you know the story of the Rebbe’s response to the term kiruv rechokim!?so just my using that term is off…)

    Reply
    • 29. SoCal Shliach wrote:

      19 used rotten not me.

      Yeh yeh. Standard defense response. We’re in Golus
      770 is in golus
      The yeshiva is in golus
      The Rabbonim ( who bicker, fight and publicly disrespect each other. Showing the youngsters a real dugma chaya.) are in Golus.
      The shulchan oruch is in Golus.

      What can you expect when one is in Golus?
      That they should act like Yidden??
      Feh they’re in Golus!

  • 30. A Beautiful Neighborhood! wrote:

    Just a quick glance at some of the many organizations that are operated and supported by our community, Ahavas Chesed, Keren Simchas Shabbos v’Yom Tov, Keren Simchas Choson v’Kallah, Ten Yad, Hatzoloh, Shomrim, Yad Vezer, Gemachs, and so many more I haven’t listed here, not to mention all the support that Shluchim get from members of our community, we can safely say that Crown Heights is a wonderful place to live and to be proud of!

    Thank you Rabbi Brashevitzky for sharing your thoughts.

    Reply
  • 31. crown heights wrote:

    im amzaed every time i go to crown heights, seeing soo msny jews and feeling like i belong…in lnog beach, ca, its not so often that u see soo many jews gathered together and many kosher stores….where i live u need to drive 45 min to get to a kosher resturaunt but in crown heights, people are lucky……

    Reply
  • 35. CH is still amazing wrote:

    but it is NOT helpful to convince yourself that it hasn’t changed.
    There are many ways that it has grown positively in important and beautiful ways, and there are many ways, in very crucial areas, that many people have gone wayyyyyyyyyy down unfortunately.

    Reply
  • 36. deep wrote:

    this rabbi sure strikes out a chord with me. i also had negative thoughts, and now turn myself around to his way to think. you are great rabbi! tracht gutt veht zein gutt!

    Reply
  • 37. thank you avremel wrote:

    Avremel, my former mentor. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I was there briefly too for simchas beis hashoeva the night before Hoshana Rabah, this Tishrai and was really impressed by my native shchuna. As much as things change they stay the same. Our future is not as bad or bleak as some collive and ch.info op-ed writers would have you believe. The warmth, chasidishkiet, friendliness, and simcha are all still in kan tziva hashem es habrocha.

    Reply
  • 38. To SoCal Shliach wrote:

    “you can tell by the boys that come to you”….
    oh, let me tell you how many boys have been ruined by the many out-of-town Yeshivos……
    It’s unfortunately a big problem with Chabad education today and has little to do with CH mosdos on their own.

    A bochur that joined us for a few Sukkos suedos and is in need of a little guidance told me, “Name any good Yeshiva – and I’ve been there. London, New Haven, Detroit. I’ve never been kicked out – I left the system because I saw through them.”

    The “system” as a whole needs a refuah shleimah – yes, the dress code in CH needs help – but I don’t think the woman can look up to the women of CA (in general) for inspiration!

    Anyway, if you have complaints and truly believe them about A. Brashevitskys point of view and aren’t just looking to be negative, why not sign your name?

    Reply
  • 39. Beautiful and uplifting wrote:

    The Rebbe would be proud to read this. No denying the problems, but emphasizing the good! If we would all be Lubavitch proud, we would act the part. Machloikes kills, love one another and make the Rebbe prouder.

    Reply
  • 40. Mendoza wrote:

    Wow. Someone. Said something good about crown heights. For a change
    Thank you. For. Not. Trashing us

    Reply
  • 41. by wrote:

    is this just one of those controverial things mean to upkeep the website? If so, I hope that you realize you are fanning the flames of negativity to some degree

    Reply
  • 43. loshon hara wrote:

    According to the laws of lashon hara, one should not praise someone if that will cause bad comments. So although your article is true, putting it in a public forum where people put up opposing views is a problem, as you see. Also, when people put up negative comments about the shechuna, even if it is true, that is also lashon hara. The Alter Rebbe said that lashon hara is worse than the three worst aveiros. We should look at the good in others and strengthen our own observances before criticizing.People should daven and ask the Rebbe’s bracha for positive, effective ways to improve things

    Reply
  • 44. nmb + shtetl belz wrote:

    are you joking
    6 years the shuls not done or completed with mistakes costing hundreds of thousands
    no noshim mikva for chabad
    but yes rabbi marlow is a lamdon

    Reply
  • 45. Kol HaKavod from a fellow Shliach wrote:

    I agree with your piece 100%. As a Shliach I LOVE Crown Heights!!

    Reply
  • 46. just a question wrote:

    is this shaliach from oheli torah? because he writes nicely in english. you see we really need to have english in our boy schools because when they go on shluchim they need how to write and how to speak. even in willy and BR have english what a shame what a shame. and then we are wondering why our kids go for more intresting things in life .

    Reply
  • 47. Rabbi B. wrote:

    To #46
    First of all please check your grammar! Sorry, but your writing sounds more like Ebonics than English.

    2nd I AM the author of this article. I do appreciate your compliment (although, after reading your comment I can’t accept it as such).
    I can tell that you are bitter about this matter. This really means a lot to you. I’ve got news for you. Although I was NOT brought up in OT per se, I went to ULY Ocean Parkway, I hardly took secular studies. I believe very strongly that if one really wishes and intends to – one can learn just about anything, even on their own.
    Did Rabbi Dov Pinson go to “Shkole”? I thinks he writes pretty well… Did the so many Shluchim who are out there in Ivy League Universities ever give away the fact that they did not even attend basic high-school? NO! You know why? Because they are intelligent and make it a point to sound so. They are self taught and disciplined.
    If you walk over to anyone in the street and ask the following question: “Do you want to be a millionaire?” I GUARANTEE you that more than 98% will say yes! But you and I know that’s not true. What they are really saying is “we wouldn’t MIND to be millionaires”. The people who really WANT to be ones ARE doing something about it (whether they succeed or not is another story, but they are actively trying).
    If one wants to be “educated”, really wants to, one could (especially nowadays with the tremendous resources that are available at the tip of one’s fingers) with relative ease learn almost anything. Certainly enough to sound reasonably educated and be respected.

    Reply
  • 49. Hmm.... wrote:

    It does seem pretty crazy that beneath that positivity experienced by this rabbi, there lurks scary behavior among some of the “leadership” of Chabad. Fighting, threatening, ripping up papers, yelling. And it does seem pretty crazy that amidst that positivity there exists catty commenting within the walls of davening, or private iphone conversations when others are trying to focus on more spiritual activities. This is what I have to say about that: Let’s get some real leadership, some sensitive, intelligent, loving, compassionate , wise, aware, spiritual leadership. The Rebbe did not have children. That’s a unique break in traditional legacy. But that’s what happened. Now, what is to be the next step? How will history record this anomaly? How do you WANT history to do so? Isn’t this the most pressing issue of all? Think about it. And I wonder….did the Rebbe leave all of this in this way intentionally? Did he trust that it would resolve with the help of Hashem? Could he have conceived of the idea that a veil of unrest and conflict would exist after his passing? Does anyone have thoughts about this?

    Reply

Leave Comment

Comment moderation is in use. Please do not submit your comment twice -- it will appear shortly.