Race and Religion Among the Chosen People of Crown Heights

Race and Religion Among the Chosen People of Crown Heights

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In August of 1991, the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights was engulfed in violence following the deaths of Gavin Cato and Yankel Rosenbauma€”a West Indian boy struck by a car in the motorcade of a Hasidic spiritual leader and an orthodox Jew stabbed by a Black teenager. The ensuing unrest thrust the tensions between the Lubavitch Hasidic community and their Afro-Caribbean and African American neighbors into the media spotlight, spurring local and national debates on diversity and multiculturalism. Crown Heights became a symbol of racial and religious division. Yet few have paused to examine the nature of Black-Jewish difference in Crown Heights, or to question the flawed assumptions about race and religion that shape the politicsa€”and perceptionsa€”of conflict in the community. In Race and Religion among the Chosen Peoples of Crown Heights, Henry Goldschmidt explores the everyday realities of difference in Crown Heights. Drawing on two years of fieldwork and interviews, he argues that identity formation is particularly complex in Crown Heights because the neighborhooda€™s communities envision the conflict in remarkably diverse ways. Lubavitch Hasidic Jews tend to describe it as a religious difference between Jews and Gentiles, while their Afro-Caribbean and African American neighbors usually define it as a racial difference between Blacks and Whites. These tangled definitions are further complicated by government agencies who address the issue as a matter of culture, and by the Lubavitch Hasidic beliefa€”a belief shared with a surprising number of their neighborsa€”that they are a a€œchosen peoplea€ whose identity transcends the constraints of the social world. The efforts of the LubAsavitch Hasidic community to live as a divinely chosen people in a diverse Brooklyn neighborAshood where collective identiAsties are generally defined in terms of race illuminate the limits of American multiculturalisma€”a concept that claims to celebrate diversity, yet only accommodates variations of certain kinds. Taking the history of conflict in Crown Heights as an invitation to reimagine our shared social world, Goldschmidt interrogates the boundaries of race and religion and works to create space in American society for radical forms of cultural difference.... New York communities, see for example: Hasia Diner, Lower East Side Memories: A Jewish Place in America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000) ... For an introduction to anthropological discussions of place and identity, see the essays in Gupta and Fergusona#39;s ... Museum of Brooklyn, 1977), 72a€“84; and an anonymously written profile of the area in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 14, 10.

Title:Race and Religion Among the Chosen People of Crown Heights
Author:Henry Goldschmidt
Publisher:Rutgers University Press - 2006-09-01


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