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 19, 1993
Call number: 1994.006.11
Oral History Interview with Simon Jacobson
Rabbi Simon Jacobson was born in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights in 1956. Observant from birth, he attended Lubavitch Yeshiva and lived on St. Marks Avenue before moving to Sullivan Place. His father was Gershon Jacobson, founder and publisher of the Yiddish-language Hasidic newspaper Der Algemeiner. For several years Simon worked as the editor and translator of speeches by the Lubavitch Rebbe, Menachem Schneerson. Later, he became the director of Vaad Hanochos Hatmimim, a foundation that promotes Schneerson's teachings. A noted teacher in the community, he is the founder of a Lubavitch organization for outreach and education called the Meaningful Life Center, based on Eastern Parkway.
Rabbi Simon Jacobson narrates his childhood in Crown Heights during the 1950s and '60s, recounting how the ethnic and religious composition of the Brooklyn neighborhood (including among different Hasidic movements) has changed throughout his lifetime. He explains the religious reasons for why the Lubavitch have stayed in Crown Heights (when other Jewish groups have left), and he addresses various subjects related to home-ownership--including role played by the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council and the perception that the Lubavitch want to drive Blacks out of the neighborhood. He describes the Lubavitch community's relationship with non-Jews and non-practicing Jews, dwelling on the concept of "chosenness." He and the interviewer discuss possible venues for outreach and cultural "translation"--especially of Jewish holidays and the concept of Moshiach (or messiah). 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.
CitationJacobson, Simon, Oral history interview conducted by Jill Vexler, August 19, 1993, Crown Heights History Project collection, 1994.006.11; Brooklyn Historical Society.
- Congregation Lubavitch (Crown Heights, New York, N.Y.)
- Jacobson, Simon
- Schneerson, Menachem Mendel, 1902-1994
- African Americans
- Jewish religious education
- Race relations
- Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
- Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
Finding AidCrown Heights History Project collection