Black Hasidic Jew’s winning essay offers dream for healing rift
Yosef Abrahamson, 16, with plaque designating him as essay winner and commanding officer for a day of 71st Precinct.
He’s someone everyone should be able to agree on.
Yosef Abrahamson, an African-American Hasidic Jew, took his place as commanding officer of a Crown Heights precinct for a day Tuesday.
It’s a symbolic gesture that the 16-year-old Brooklyn boy hopes could heal rifts in the neighborhood racked by fresh violence between the cultures he claims.
“There’s a lot of trouble in my community,” said the teen, who wears the distinctive black suit and fedora of the Chabad Lubavitch Orthodox Jews.
“But I’m willing to do anything to help,” he said.
Yosef won an essay competition for the honor of being named the top cop of the 71st Precinct.
He joined 120 other city teens who won similar recognition for a ceremony yesterday at Police Headquarters.
The Yeshiva student never intended on becoming outspoken on the issue of bias violence in Crown Heights – nor was his unique background known to the judges who selected his essay as a winner.
“Some people become leaders, some people are drafted,” said Rabbi Chaim Perl, the administrator of Yeshiva Darchai Menachem, where Yosef studies. “We’re drafting him.”
Yosef arrived last year from Nebraska, where he was home-schooled by his mother, Dinah Abrahamson – the daughter of a Jewish woman who fled Nazi Germany and an African-American father.
When he landed in Brooklyn, Yosef was the subject of innocent curiosity from both the Hasidic and black residents of Crown Heights.
But as instances of ethnic violence erupted, he became keenly aware of the simmering tensions.
In April, a 20-year-old son of a black cop was assaulted by several men believed to be members of an Orthodox neighborhood watch.
Last month, a 16-year-old Jewish boy was robbed and beaten by two black teens.
The violence has led to protests from both communities and accusations that the NYPD has favored one group over the other.
Yosef was subjected to sharp comments about his mixed heritage. Some Jews have told him he doesn’t fit in and some African-Americans have warned him that his schooling is turning “him into a Jew.”
But for the most part, “People have been very welcoming of us,” said the boy’s mother.
“I hope I can make some difference,” he said. “Things have to change.”
(Tags: Black, Jewish, Chasidic)