The Sephardim of New Lots:
Self-Containment and Expansion
In the New Lots district, situated in the midst of the East New York, Brownsville, Crown Heights, and East Flatbush sections of Brooklyn, which together make up the most densely populated Jewish area in the world, lies an enclave with a peculiar character all its own. Where Linden Boulevard bends around East New York to link Brooklyn with Queens, five square blocks of narrow streets, made irregular by the wide sweep of Linden Boulevard and the weed-covered fields that gave New Lots its name, form a tranquil middle-class neighborhood. Here, in this enclosed little world, live a thousand Sephardic families who have built a society modeled after the Levantine countries which they left a generation or two ago.
The homes of the Sephardim are small one-or two-story affairs of sand-colored brick with double-decker porches and large back yards profuse with vegetable gardens and grape arbors. The iron fences around the houses enclose thick rows of hedges and umbrella trees, and the wooden porch railings and window frames are painted a deep green. The hushed streets of the neighborhood are dotted with a sprinkling of old-fashioned shops: a corner drug store, a tiny penny-candy store, a few coffeehouses, and an Oriental grocery featuring imported cheeses and Turkish delicacies, with strings of red onions, garlic, and dried mushrooms in the window. The synagogues here are very unlike the Hasidic shtibels or the Orthodox shuls found just on the other side of New Lots Avenue. They are small and neat, adorned with stained glass windows and displaying signs in black and gold that blend the ancient Hebrew congregational nomenclature with the names of minor Balkan and Turkish towns: Peace and Brotherhood of Monastir, Hessed V’Emet of Castoria, and Keter Zion, Ankoralese.
About the Author