By JAMILLE SUTTON
The Italians began settling in Bensonhurst in the early 1900s. According to Aimee Cohen, 70, a Jewish immigrant from Egypt, Jews began to emigrate from Syria and Egypt during this time as well.
The Jews, like the Italians, first settled in Manhattan, and by the 1920s, many moved from the Lower East Side to Bensonhurst. There, they settled, established two synagogues, a cemetery, ritual bathhouse, and their own intimate community.
Cohen herself moved from Egypt to Bensonhurst in 1965. She said that in general, while she lived in Bensonhurst, the Jews and Italians were friendly with each other.
“We got along very well with the Italians,” said Cohen. “They were very nice people. Once we settled and learned English, we could interact and communicate nicely.”
Cohen said she and many others in Bensonhurst in the ’60s learned English quickly.
Cohen remembers taking her small children to the parks, air jordan 13 such as Bensonhurst Park on Cropsey Avenue. There, while her kids would play with the Italian children, she socialized with the children’s parents. They exchanged numbers and became friends.
Cohen said that the Jews of Bensonhurst did not have many exclusively Jewish stores or markets.
“We had one small store that sold Middle Eastern groceries, but that was it,” Cohen said. “For the most part, we shopped in mainstream groceries.”
Cohen said that the fact that the Jews did not establish many Jewish stores could serve as another reason for why they and the Italians got along so well. Asian immigrants have established many Asian groceries, restaurants, and shops, which reduces their interaction with the Italians and others.
Margaret Mosseri, 47, a Jew born in Bensonhurst to Egyptians, remembers mingling with the surrounding Italians.
“We lived in an apartment right above an Italian bakery,” Mosseri said. “We really lived amongst each other.”
Mosseri said that the Jews in Bensonhurst got along with the Italians, despite the fact that the Jews developed synagogues and exclusively Jewish facilities. They even had their own community leader, Rabbi Jacob Kassin.
“Our goal was to integrate into American society, but to preserve our culture,” Mosseri said.
According to Mosseri, the Jews of Bensonhurst dressed like the surrounding populations, but kept to the Jewish code of modesty. They ate American foods, but made sure to cook traditional Middle Eastern foods as well.
“It was all about creating a healthy balance,” she said.
Although the Syrian and Egyptian Jews got along with Bensonhurst’s Italians, in the 1950s, many of them, namely the rich, began to move from Bensonhurst to Ocean Parkway. Mosseri said that they wealthy wanted more space to build large houses.
“In Bensonhurst, we lived in apartments or two-family houses,” said Mosseri. “They wanted a spacious environment where the could build there own homes. It had nothing to do with their relationship with the Italians, for that relationship was always a good one.”
These individuals settled on Ocean Parkway, and built a large synagogue there, Shaare Zion.
“Once the synagogue was built, more and more Jews moved from Bensonhurst to Ocean Parkway,” Mosseri said.
As the Jews moved out, the Italians remained in Bensonhurst.
Mosseri said that the separation of the Asians from air jordan 14 others in Bensonhurst could reflect a new outlook. Today, she said, other ethnic and religious groups remain aloof and clustered together. The once social Syrian and Egyptian Jews of Bensonhurst remain aloof from others in their new neighborhood, she said.
“My children attend Jewish Day School, and only have Jewish friends,” Mosseri said.
In early 20th century America, immigrants zealously tried to blend into their surroundings, and become American, she said.
“Today, there seems to be more of an emphasis on preservation of one’s culture,” said Mosseri.