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A Brooklyn Building’s Jewish History

Exploring the home once owned by the borough’s first Jewish pediatrician

Sara Ivry
February 10, 2015
Brooklyn Bridge. (Flickr)

Brooklyn Bridge. (Flickr)

“No matter how long you have been here, you are a New Yorker the first time you say, ‘That used to be Munsey’s’ or ‘That used to be the Tic Toc Lounge.’” So wrote Colson Whitehead after the September 11 attacks, and its truth endures. The sentiment it embodies is something of a foundational credo for the Brooklyn-centric website Brownstoner, which regularly features a “Building of the Day,” delving into the particulars of a building’s past and making history buffs, architecture fans, neighborhood zealots, and anyone interested in the evolution of cities swoon or weep, depending on your point of view.

Today’s feature examines 1147 Eastern Parkway, down a stretch from Chabad World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, a section of Brooklyn now home to a large Hasidic population. When the home was built in the 1920s, though, the neighborhood’s Jews were immigrants from Eastern European who “were joining the wealthy German Jewish families already there,” writes Montrose Morris in the post. “A look at the state census of 1925 on Eastern Parkway near this house shows that almost all of the people living on the Parkway within a two block radius from this address were Jewish, with Yiddish as a first language, many born in Russia or Poland, or the first generation of American-born, with parents born in Russia or Poland.”

Morris was unable to determine who built the Colonial Revival home or first inhabited it, but says by the 1940s it was the residence of Benjamin Stoloff, said to be the first Jewish pediatrician in the borough. Some time after his death, his daughter sold the property to a Jewish communal organization called the Non Pareil Social and Athletic Club, which in turn sold it to Representative Shirley Chisholm (Brownstoner also published a Shirley Chisholm walking tour today). By 1981, it had become the Mt. Moriah Church of God in Christ.

Though it was not originally a house of worship, studying the building’s history invokes a project by the photographer Thomas Roma. In the book On Three Pillars, Roma documented synagogue buildings and their sites throughout Brooklyn in order to tell the tale of how his hometown, and its demographics, have changed over the decade. He spoke to Vox Tablet about his undertaking in 2008.

Related: Temple Seeker

Sara Ivry is the host of Vox Tablet, Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast. Follow her on Twitter@saraivry.

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