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Op-Ed: The Future Of A Leaderless Crown Heights

What is the future of Crown Heights? Why are we even asking such a question? How did we get here?

These questions ring hollow for so many of Crown Heights’s thousands of Jewish residents. Each one laughs at them, not anticipating any real answers, and definitely not expecting anything to change.

“So what is the future of Crown Heights?” The answer to that question is easy, Crown Heights will continue to survive, as it is the home of Lubavitch and the Rebbe. The real question to ask is “Will Crown Heights flourish and grow?” The answer to that is without proper leadership, no.

If this is the case, then it begs the second question, Why are we even asking such a question? Sadly, the answer to that is easy to answer.

Crown Heights has no proper leadership, and has not had it for many years.

Leadership has many traits, including interpersonal skills, communication, problem solving, delegation, and the ability to form a cohesive team. Unfortunately, photo-ops are not part of what makes a successful leader.

Crown Heights has lacked leadership in nearly every issue facing community today. Instead, different people and organizations have half grown to face each challenge. Most are underfunded and lacking support, while others have been opposed by those who hold the leadership positions.

One of the greatest threats to the community is that of skyrocketing rents. However much we may understand the need for landlords and homeowners to cover the costs of their mortgages, we also can’t forget the fact that the average Crown Heightser can’t pay over to $2,000 in rent.

What have the Crown Heights leaders done to face this issue? They have benefited by become building owners, but never actually addressed the problem.

Another great issue in the community is the fact that our schools are being forced to close down due to lack of funding. Its not an isolated issue, every school is struggling, and without help, they will each likely go under.

What have the Crown Heights leaders done to face this issue? Have they looked to help schools raise to cover tuition? Have they written for grants to help the communities parents pay their tuition?

What about the mental health crises? As our communities children face mounting mental health issues and suicides, how are we facing the challenge as a community?

Attacks in the street, strings of crimes, how are our leaders stepping up? A new community patrol that never saw the streets? More Photo Ops?

Its clear that Crown Heights needs to see a change in leadership.

This Motzei Shabbos a Melava Malka is scheduled to take place titled “The Future of Crown Heights,” arranged by the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council. The flyer released to the community names many of the above issues to be addressed, even letting the community know that YOU can get involved.

Missing from the nights agenda is addressing the real problem, lack of leadership.

February 15th will mark one full year since the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council officially announced elections after eight years, despite the bylaws requiring one every two. The communities excitement at the news was quickly dulled, as the promised election continued to be pushed off.

In one phone call, just months before the Crown Heights Beis Din reunified, Rabbi Eli Cohen placed the delays at the feet of the Rabbonim, who responded to the claim by denying being involved. Months later, Rabbi Cohen again pushed things off, noting that the choices in the election was in the hands of Zaki Tamir, who had headed the CHJCC through four missed elections.

That’s how we have gotten here. No one is expecting the “leaders” of our community to do more than make the Melava Malka and smile for the cameras. Are they wrong? Will the Melava Malka actually address the real problem?

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