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Oral histories are intimate conversations between and among people who have generously agreed to share these recordings with BHS’s archives and researchers. Please listen in the spirit with which these were shared. BHS abides by the General Principles & Best Practices for Oral History as agreed upon by the Oral History Association and expects that use of this material will be done with respect for these professional ethics.

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[Last name, First name], Oral history interview conducted by [Interviewer’s First name Last name], [Month DD, YYYY], [Title of Collection], [Call #]; Brooklyn Historical Society.

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Chaim Burston

Oral history interview conducted by Jill Vexler

August 23, 1993

Call number: 1994.006.03

Invalid transcript file.

Interview Description

Oral History Interview with Chaim Burston

Chaim Burston was born to Jewish-American parents in Pasadena, California. After enrolling at Tel Aviv University, Chaim traveled to Israel. Subsequent to joining a Lubavitch Hasidic community as a baal teshuvah (a Jew returning to Orthodoxy), Burston returned to the United States to continue his studies in New York. It was in the Lubavitch community of Crown Heights, Brooklyn where he met his wife Chana. The young couple married, purchased a home - and with Chaim becoming an elementary school teacher along the way - had eight children together. A musician, Burston had taken to playing melodies intended to accompany prayers.

Burston recounts his youth, travelling abroad to Israel and rediscovering his ancestral religion. He also discusses meeting his wife, what it's like raising a large family in New York City, and touches on relations with his Afro-Caribbean neighbors in the aftermath of the 1991 riot in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. The interview ends with Burston playing his synthesizer keyboard. Interview conducted by Jill Vexler.

This collection contains oral history recordings and transcripts, as well as exhibit materials, from Brooklyn Historical Society's Crown Heights History Project, also known as "Bridging Eastern Parkway." Crown Heights History Project oral histories include audio and transcripts created and collected within the context of an exhibition project undertaken in part by BHS in 1993 and 1994. Three interviewers recorded conversations with over forty narrators. In addition to exhibition product value, the oral histories were conducted as life history and community anthropology interviews; topics of discussion include family and heritage, immigration and relocation, cultural and racial relations, occupations and professions, education and religion, housing and gentrification, civil unrest and reconciliation, media representation and portrayal, and activism. The series of exhibition research materials document the outreach efforts for interviews and materials from the community as well as exhibit scripts and curatorial notes.


Burston, Chaim, Oral history interview conducted by Jill Vexler, August 23, 1993, Crown Heights History Project collection, 1994.006.03; Brooklyn Historical Society.


  • Burston, Chaim
  • Congregation Lubavitch (Crown Heights, New York, N.Y.)


  • African American neighborhoods
  • African Americans
  • Caribbean Americans
  • Education
  • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)
  • Immigrants
  • Jewish neighborhoods
  • Jews
  • Judaism
  • Musicians
  • Reformed Judaism
  • Theology


  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • California
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Israel


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Finding Aid

Crown Heights History Project collection