A Tale of Two Crown Heightses

May 29, 2012 | By

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The neighborhood of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, is home to a large population of Hasidic Jews, and a large population of Caribbean immigrants. For the most part, the two groups have kept to themselves–with a few notable exceptions, like the 1991 Crown Heights Riots.

Recently four Caribbean high-school girls in Crown Heights, three from Jamaica and one from Guyana, decided to perform a sort of informal anthropology of the Hasidic Jews that share their neighborhood–and they recorded a video podcast about it.

As the young women admit in the beginning, they know almost nothing about Judaism. They also think that all Jews are Orthodox–one student expresses her surprise after learning that their music teacher is Jewish. “I thought he would have long hair on the sides, a beard, and wear all black, but he dresses regular–and he’s clean-shaven, even his head!”

For the most part, however, the podcast examines the Chabad Hasidim and their insular culture. Some parts might make you cringe. Others might make you want to leap straight into your computer screen and join the conversation. Although the video starts with the simplest of explanations about what Jews are, it becomes apparent very quickly that this isn’t just another look at Brooklyn Hasidim.

“At first, we thought they were being racist,” one of the young women says. “But now we realize that they’re separate because they want to preserve their own culture.” Another adds: “We might be able to learn a lot from them.”

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