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.
Every oral history relies on the memories, views, and opinions of the narrator. Because of the personal nature of oral history, listeners may find some viewpoints or language of the recorded participants to be objectionable. In keeping with its mission of preservation and unfettered access whenever possible, BHS presents these views as recorded.
The audio recording should be considered the primary source for each interview. Where provided, transcripts created prior to 2008 or commissioned by a third party other than BHS, serve as a guide to the interview and are not considered verbatim. More recent transcripts commissioned by BHS are nearly verbatim copies of the recorded interview, and as such may contain the natural false starts, verbal stumbles, misspeaks, and repetitions that are common in conversation. The decision for their inclusion was made because BHS gives primacy to the audible voice and also because some researchers do find useful information in these verbal patterns. Unless these verbal patterns are germane to your scholarly work, when quoting from this material researchers are encouraged to correct the grammar and make other modifications maintaining the flavor of the narrator’s speech while editing the material for the standards of print.
All citations must be attributed to Brooklyn Historical Society:
[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.
These interviews are made available for research purposes only. For more information about other kinds of usage and permissions, see BHS’s rights and reproductions policy.
Oral history interview conducted by Jill Vexler
August 24, 1993
Call number: 1994.006.05
Oral History Interview with Avroham Crawford
Avroham Crawford grew up in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, the son of Irish-Catholic immigrants from Newfoundland. He was raised in the church, but considered converting to Judaism while studying for his bachelor's degree in philosophy at NYU (where he continued to work as a librarian through the time of this interview). He moved to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights in 1970, and shortly afterwards was converted to Orthodox Judaism with assistance from Rabbi Yisroel Jacobson; he chose the Jewish name "Avroham" at this time. In 1975, he married Suri (Perlman), and they had three children: Nechama, Yitzhak, and Yisroel. He died in 2011.
Avroham, in his late 40s, narrates his Irish-Catholic upbringing, his early encounters with Jewish people, and his conversion to Orthodox Judaism. He describes how the Lubavitch of the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn have changed and grown in the years since 1970, when he moved there. He reflects on the religious community's acceptance of him as a Christian convert, on how his children have grown up Lubavitch, and on secular Jews who take up Orthodox practice as adults (known as baal teshuvah). When asked, he explains the extent of his interaction with the Black residents of Crown Heights. At various points throughout the interview, he dwells on religious subjects: how boys and girls are educated, how Judaism is different from Christianity, how conversion for marriage is different than for faith alone, and others. 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.
CitationCrawford, Avroham, Oral history interview conducted by Jill Vexler, August 24, 1993, Crown Heights History Project collection, 1994.006.05; Brooklyn Historical Society.
- Congregation Lubavitch (Crown Heights, New York, N.Y.)
- Crawford, Avroham
- Hecht, Jacob J.
- African Americans
- Canadian Americans
- Interfaith families
- Interfaith marriage
- Jewish religious education
- Race relations
- Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
- Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
- Sunset Park (New York, N.Y.)
Finding AidCrown Heights History Project collection