CROWN HEIGHTS — It was supposed to unite Franklin Avenue’s factions, but a meeting planned as a way to bring the community together has locked out one of the neighborhood’s most significant populations because it occurs on a Saturday — or the Jewish Sabbath.
As tensions continue to simmer between old-timers and newcomers in Crown Heights’ rapidly gentrifying Franklin Avenue corridor, community activists are pinning their hopes for detente on next month’s Crow Hill Community Association Town Hall meeting.
“We wanted to be able to reach out to the biggest possible group,” said Crow Hill Community Association activist Susan Boyle of the March 23 event, which bills itself as bringing together landlords and renters, children and seniors, cyclists and drivers, old residents and new.
“It’s critical for the success of this meeting to have everybody have their voices heard,” she said.
Everybody, that is, except for Franklin Avenue’s Jewish population, whose members say they’re being unfairly excluded because the meeting is being held between noon and 3 p.m. on a Saturday.
“They say they want all voices to be heard, but in order to achieve that, everybody needs to be there or at least have the opportunity to be there. They can’t do that when it’s on [the Jewish Sabbath],” said Rabbi Ari Kirschenbaum of Congregation Kol Israel, a large and growing Orthodox synagogue near the intersection of St. Johns Place and Franklin Avenue in the heart of the Crow Hill corridor.
“It’s disappointing that in a community that’s evolving, that has so many diverse backgrounds and ethnicities, that they wouldn’t consider making it all-inclusive.”
Kirschenbaum and his flock are no strangers to the association. The Crown Heights native is a familiar face on Franklin Avenue, a booster for many local businesses and an avid supporter of previous association events.
“When it’s come to the Franklin Avenue Kids’ Day, we contribute and we participate,” Kirschenbaum said. “We have wonderful relations with all of our neighbors here and there’s mutual respect among everyone in this very diverse neighborhood.”
Read more: dnainfo.com
THERE were mornings when the women at Mama’s Senegalese hair salon received an unusual guest: a 13-year-old Jewish girl from the neighborhood’s Chabad Lubavitch community. She had an unusual request: to change clothes in the bathroom.
She would walk in wearing the long traditional dresses she put on for school, then walk out wearing something less traditional: clothes that one might wear to work the streets.
“I’d say, ‘Baby, you a good Jewish girl,’ ” said Annie Allen, a beautician at the shop, in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. “ ‘What you doing?’ ”
Now, nine years later, the question of what she was doing — or what was being done to her — lingers at the center of a haunting criminal case in the Brooklyn courts. On one side is the girl, who is now a woman of 22 and says that for the better part of a decade, a group of local thugs forced her into prostitution, ensuring her submissiveness with a steady diet of beatings, threats and rapes. On the other side are the accused — four older black men — who deny the woman’s charges and contend that she herself was a kind of predator: a troubled teenager who crossed Crown Heights’s racial divide with an appetite for sex.
All of this played out one block from the intersection where, in 1991, a black child was killed by the motorcade of the Lubavitch leader, igniting days of riots — and so an overlay of race has been placed atop the already fraught charges. While there is no indication of a racial motivation in the case, Crown Heights history hovers over everything and everyone: from the victim’s father, who said his daughter had met the men, in part, because she had “less reserve about conversing with African-Americans than is the norm in our community,” to the main defendant’s brother, who said he thought her presence could lead to trouble: “I never liked hanging out with her. She was the only white girl out there with a bunch of black kids.”
As in many sex-crime cases, the defense has questioned the victim’s credibility, quoting records that indicate a history of mental illness. The story has been tangled by the young woman herself, who repeatedly came forward to accuse the men, only — in a classic pattern, experts say — to continue to see her ostensible tormentors and withdraw some of her charges.