A Jewish Resurgence in The South Bronx

Although the last synagogue in the South Bronx closed over a decade ago, the area is seeing a slow resurgence of a more visible Jewish population.

Clearly it’s nowhere near the over 600,000 Jews that called The Bronx home during the first half of the 20th century which made our borough the most Jewish borough ever, but a menorah here and a menorah there can be seen popping up where there were none for decades.

A lot of it clearly has to do with gentrification and relative affordability as the rest of NYC continues to get costlier and the fact that the South Bronx is more desirable than it has seen in half a century.

A menorah near the Third Avenue Bridge in Port Morris.

Chabad.org writes about this Jewish renaissance in the South Bronx and how Chabad of the South Bronx has begun to reconnect local Jews to their roots.

Some are stranger to The Bronx and others have family who began their journeys in America in the South Bronx generations ago and their moving to the borough is basically a home coming for them.

Chabad writes:

The young couple faced an uphill struggle in an area with little in the way of a crystallized Jewish community. “I called a local Jew and he told me, ‘I’m the only Jew here,’ ” says Choli Mishulovin. “He came to our program and was pleasantly surprised to meet other Jewish Bronxites.”

Rabbi Choli and Chana Mushka say they were inspired by the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. “The Rebbe taught that there is no city that doesn’t have Jews who could be uplifted,” said Mishulovin. “It has to be true of the South Bronx, too.”

He added that “just a few years ago, nobody in their wildest dreams would have thought that anything Jewish would open here. Chabad is breaking new ground; people can’t believe it.”

Although theJewish community in many Bronx neighborhoods underwent a decades-long hiatus, it had been home in its heyday to numerous Chassidic communities, including a thriving Chabad community. “My wife Sarah actually lived in the Bronx as a child and attended a Chabad school here in the ’70s,” he said. “It’s been some time since the golden days of Bronx’s Jewish community, when yeshivahs, JCCs, kosher butchers, bakeries and delis dotted the neighborhood, but it’s on the rise again, and the future is bright.”

Since the Mishulovins moved to the neighborhood, a steady stream of local Jews have come out of the woodwork, glad to once again be afforded opportunities to be part of a proud Jewish community. Weekly Friday-night dinners draw longtime residents and newcomers to the neighborhood alike. Semi-monthly Torah classes, monthly women’s circles and lunch-and-learns serve young professionals attracted to the South Bronx by its affordable housing and proximity to their jobs in Manhattan.

“People are proud to be from the South Bronx,” says Chana Mushka Mishulovin. “It’s got personality; there is so much music, culture and art. There has been an influx of immigrants from around the world; the South Bronx is truly a melting pot of so many cultures and peoples. The Jewish community has always been a key component of life in the South Bronx, and so many people who grew up here or have parents or grandparents from here are excited that the Bronx is coming back in a Jewish way.”

Read the full article: Urban Rejuvenation Meets Jewish Renaissance in the South Bronx

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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.