Teens at a mostly African-American school in Brooklyn have questions about Jews. A Holocaust class provides some answers.

Amy Goldberg, left, and Lindsay Bressman talking to students at Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in Brooklyn, Jan. 8, 2020. (Josefin Dolsten)

BROOKLYN (JTA) — Though Naisha Couamin walks through a heavily Jewish neighborhood near her home in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn most days, she had never actually talked to a Jewish person until recently.

The 17-year-old had plenty of questions about the Hasidic Jews who were her neighbors. She wondered why they wore distinctive clothing and why the men kept their side locks long. But a sense that the community was insular and concern about the language barrier — many Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn speak Yiddish better than English — kept her from inquiring.

“You always see Jewish people, they always had a secluded area, they were never with other people,” said Couamin. “You see they have their own school bus, their own ambulance, and I always wondered why.”

Couamin began to get some answers after enrolling in a Holocaust class at Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School, a majority African-American Catholic school in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn. The class exposed her to lessons about the history of the Holocaust, including hours of recorded testimony from survivors. But it also gave her a chance to ask questions about Judaism she had never had a chance to before.

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