The Schmooze

The Red Devil

Earlier this week, Matthew Shaer wrote about the genesis of his book, “Among Righteous Men,” and divisions within the Crown Heights community. His blog posts have been featured this week on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog Series. For more information on the series, please visit:


In December, not long after “Among Righteous Men” was published, I returned to Crown Heights. The evening was unseasonably warm, and I walked east from my apartment, past the lip of Prospect Park, and down the undulating clamor of Eastern Parkway, my hands in my pockets. The neighborhood, where I had spent so many months reporting — some happy, some not — appeared largely unchanged.

There was the proud façade of the main shul at 770 Eastern Parkway, and there were the clusters of yeshiva students. There in the windows of one building hung the yellow flag of the messianists — believers in the divinity of Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the late Rebbe of Lubavitch. In a balcony overlooking the sidewalk, two women were chattering happily in Yiddish. I remembered a snippet from Alfred Kazin’s “A Walker in the City,” the best book about Brooklyn ever written: “Yet as I walk those familiarly choked streets at dusk and see the old women sitting in front of the tenements, past and present become each other’s face; I am back where I began.”

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