Dr. Jeffrey Gurock, Libby M.Klaperman Professor of Jewish History, gave a lecture on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, on his newest book, Parkchester: A Bronx Tale of Race and Ethnicity, sponsored by the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies. An enthusiastic audience of amateur historians, lovers of urban history and people curious about the ebb and flow of the Jewish community in New York City filled the Yagoda Commons on the Israel Henry Beren campus and peppered Dr. Gurock with questions, anecdotes and praise for his work.
Parkchester was a planned community, founded by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in 1940 in the East Bronx, where, as Dr. Gurock explained, “you didn’t choose to live there, they chose you to live there. In a way,” he joked, “the Jews, Italians, Irish and others who got to live in Parkchester were all ‘the chosen people.’” He also pointed out that African Americans and Latinos were not initially among the chosen, making their way to Parkchester much later.
Along with that sense of chosenness came a pride in living in a “fresh, new neighborhood,”which led to a “get-along attitude” that reduced tensions and animosities, a situation that Dr. Gurock attested to personally, having lived in Parkchester from 1949 to 1975.
Given the response to the book’s publication, Dr. Gurock now considers it a “work in progress” and will be looking to do a second edition in order to contain the many reminiscences and artifacts that have come to light about the founding of this exceptional community.