Friday, December 20, 2019

Eli Cohen: The Rabbi Trying To Heal Crown Heights 

Crown Heights, with its fraught history of black-Jewish tensions that erupted in riots 30 years ago, has this year seen a spike in violent attacks against the visibly Orthodox. Starting this summer, Rabbi Eli Cohen, executive director of the neighborhood's Jewish community council, teamed up with a prominent black activist, Geoffrey Davis, to meet with more than 1,000 students, from pre-school through high school.

Some of the conversations focused on gentrification, and pernicious stereotypes that can drive racial tension. In some auditoriums, the discussions centered on bullying, depression and the forms of violence the students are exposed to. "We didn't want to lecture to them, we wanted to really get a sense of what they were feeling," said Cohen, who is 64. "We were role-modeling the relationship between the two of us," he added. "That itself was a very powerful message."


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