by Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
“FUN VANEN?” (WHERE FROM?) BORO PARK “OH, SCHEIN BORO PARK!” (BEAUTIFUL BORO PARK)
The opening line from William Styron’s book, “Sophie’s Choice”:
“In those days, cheap apartments were almost impossible to find in Manhattan, so I had to move to Brooklyn…”
In 1886/87, Electus B. Litchfield bought some vacant land west of New Utrecht Avenue, from about 57th to about 53rd Street. He named the area Blythebourne, which means “Happy Home.” He opened a real estate (“grunteygns byuro”) office at 43rd and New Utrecht Avenue. Around 1898, Sen. William H. Reynolds camd and bought land abutting on the east side of the avenue, calling it Borough Park. The Senator sold lots and also built and sold several two family homes. A real estate agent at the time warned the Litchfield family to sell its holdings, explaining that the “pogroms” in Eastern Europe would soon cause a mass migration of Jews into the area and ultimately would bring the land values down (“arop”). Mrs. William Litchfield, who controlled the property at the time, decided not to sell. The prediction at the time was partially filled. The Borough Park section did become a major Jewish community, but the land values, instead of falling, rose tremendously.
(Source: “Brooklyn - The Way It Was” by Brian Merlis)
In 1930, about half of the population of Boro Park was Jewish, while Italian and Irish immigrants were among those representing other cultures.
During the 1950s, two events brought even larger numbers of Hasidim to Boro Park: The 1956 uprising in Hungary and the construction of the Brooklyn-Queeens Expressway in 1957, which displaced Hasidic Jews living in Crown Heights and Williamsburg.
Jack Eagle wrote (“It Happened in Brooklyn” by Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer): “For those who preferred going out to shop, Brooklyn had its own version of Orchard Street, Thirteenth Avenue in Borough Park. It used to be filled with pushcarts and peddlers. (Note: the Yiddish word for pushcart is “shtupvegl.”) Guys sold sweet potatoes and hasha arbus—hot chick-peas—from little carts. My poor aunt had a little stand and stood out in the freezing cold. There was a pickle man on the corner of Fortieth Street. He’d sell sour and half-sour pickles, sour tomatoes, fresh horseradish. You’d ask for a pickle, and he’d dig his hand right down to the bottom and pull one out. And if you didn’t like that pickle, he’d dig his hand down again and schlepp out another one. He was as sour as his pickles. All of that ended when the public market was built on Thirty-ninth Street and the stands went into the market.”
Yes, Borough Park (usually spelled Boro Park by its residents) is a neighborhood (“shkheyneshaft”) in the southeastern part of the borough of Brooklyn. Boro Park is home to one of the largest Orthodox Jewish communities outside of Israel.
Since the average number of children in Hasidic and Hareidi families is 6.72, Boro Park is experiencing sharp growth.
It is an economically diverse area, with “raykh” (rich), working class, and “orem” (poor) living side-by-side and going to the same schools and synagogues. Its heart lies between 11th and 18th Avenues and 40th and 60th Streets.
I recently had the pleasure of hearing Chazan Seymour Rockoff’s song titled, “Boro Park.” Rockoff went on to write many brilliant songs, including “Cold Chopped Liver” (Old Man River) and Bills (Belz). The song is sung to the tune of “New York, New York.”
Schoin zeit genig ich fuhr zurich Zu die mein teiere mein Boro Park
Marjorie’s late husband, Howard, grew up in Brooklyn—Avenue U and East 12th. He attended “Stinkin’ Lincoln.”
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