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The Death of an American Jewish Community: A Tragedy of Good Intentions Paperback – March 29, 1993

4.4 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a well-researched, instructive, controversial analysis, Levine, a rabbi and director of Judaic Studies at Boston University, and Harmon, former editor of Boston's Jewish Advocate , show how forces external to the black and Jewish communities of Boston undermined their relationship. At issue: blockbusting in the Roxbury-Dorchester-Mattapan sections of the city, where the mid-1960s population of 90,000 Jews has been reduced to 2500. At fault, according to the authors, are: badly administered federal programs underwriting mortgage loans with little or no down payment to minority low-income and welfare families; local redevelopment agencies; profiteering realtors; establishment Jewry who, the book charges, abandoned working-class coreligionists; plus the consortium comprising Boston Banks Urban Renewal (B-BURG), which secretly established a boundary within the Jewish section as the only area in which insured mortgages would be granted, and only to blacks. B-BURG'S ribbon-cutting took place in 1968, and within three months 314 loans were made. By 1974, however, 50% of B-BURG purchasers had lost their homes through either foreclosure or abandonment, and the area developed its present alarming crime rate. Levine and Harmon present stories of harrassment, panic selling and violence, while singling out neighborhood Jews and blacks who tried to make integration succeed. The book brings a scandal to the docket, naming culprits and arguing a case that needs to be addressed--and not only in Boston.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

A metaphor for America's urban tragedy as told in the dramatic story of old Jewish Boston's swift and cruel demise. According to Levine (Sociology and Religion/Boston Univ.) and Harmon (ed., Brookline Citizen), idealistic advocates of racial integration and greedy real-estate kingpins conspired in the mid- 60's to target the Jewish inner-city enclaves of Mattapan, Dorchester, and Roxbury for a massive infusion of poor blacks. Working-class areas like ``Southie'' (the Irish neighborhood) and the North End (Boston's Italian stronghold), the authors say, were spared from the carrots of mortgage manna (e.g., banks conspiring to offer Dorchester mortgages easily, and only, to blacks) and the sticks of violent blockbusting techniques (including synagogue burnings) because it was known that these minorities would rather fight than take flight. Levine and Harmon are sympathetic to the goals of racial integration but are indignant over the brutality and unfairness that accompanied these orchestrations. Bankers and politicians are indicted here by elaborate court evidence and by supplementary research cited by the authors, who use their insiders' passion (Harmon was born and raised in Dorchester) and professional expertise to forever preserve the corned-beef flavor of old Blue Hill Avenue. As much an elegiac memory book of old Jewish Boston as a searing indictment against her killers. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; Reprint edition (March 29, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0029138663
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029138663
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As this type of exodus had occurred before in other large U.S cities, I believe this book is an excellent detailed account of what occurred in Boston. The author does a great job of showing all of the issues facing those involved (local politicians, Jews, Blacks, etc.). The end got a little boring for me since I was interested less in the legislation surrounding this problem and more in how it affected individuals. I highly recommend this book if you're from the Boston area or know the area they speak of well.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a area in Massachusetts that I was born and raised in, attended school, played as a child married in had two children My husband and I moved out at just the right time. As we both look back with all our old friends tears come to our eyes as what has happened to our home area.This book is written in fact and not in fiction. Hittel Levine has told it as it was
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Format: Paperback
As a student of Urban Life/History in the US, there are two great books to read on urban renewal: this book and the Power Broker (Caro). What Levine and Harmon expose in Boston, Caro does the same for NY. The difference is that the latter seeks to blame an individual (Robert Moses) for the demise of communities, cultures, homes and neighborhoods, while the former holds financial institutions and the government accountable. Nonetheless, I believe this book is a must read for anyone interested in understanding the intracies surrounding urban development. If you are like me, you will not put this book down.
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Format: Paperback
Being born and raised in the Roxbury/Dorchester section of Boston and being a child whose parents chose to leave, I was quite familiar with the names, dates and places mentioned in the book. The book answered many questions about community and government involvment during those hectic times. Elected city officials nationwide should be required to read this book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Its easy to believe that the status quo is inevitable, that Jews have always lived in faceless suburbs. But this book shows that this is not so--once upon a time there were Jewish neighborhoods just like there are Chinatowns and black neighborhoods today. And it also shows that the status quo isn't just a natural result of the market -- that government "urban renewal" drove blacks out of older neighborhoods into those Jewish neighborhoods, thus spurring Jewish flight. These sorts of places aren't totally extinct--if you want to see a slightly more upscale version of what Blue Hill Avenue must have looked like, visit Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh sometime (I think the major commercial strip is Murray Avenue, but I haven't visited there from some years).
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I grew up in Boston during the 50's and 60's and never realized as a child and teenager the realities of political life. This book explains in excruciating detail why neighborhoods - and a community died. a very sad reflection of life in Boston.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Must reading for those,raised in Ward 14 of Boston's Dorchester district. For others it describes how a Federal government program initiated with good intentions destroyed a safe, stable and flourishing neighborhood.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very interesting, as I grew up in the neighborhood referenced in the book during the time the narrative was actually taking place. Who knew what was going on behind the scenes? The book does get long and drawn out after a while, however, hence the 3 stars.
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