An Insider Reflects on Ocean Parkway

Lucette Lagnado, winner of the 2008 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature based on her childhood story, The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: My Family’s Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World, writes about the Syrian-Brooklyn community following the rabbis’ arrests earlier this summer.

from The Wall Street Journal:

A Community, Shaken

I grew up in The Community, albeit on the poor side – in Bensonhurst, the rather modest area where Sephardic Jews lived before they left for much swankier digs on Ocean Parkway and in Deal. My father was born in Aleppo, Syria; I was born in Cairo. Two years ago, I published a memoir about my father and the community. When I was a little girl new to America, my world revolved around my family and my small Sephardic temple…

The community is home to several modern philanthropic institutions with lay boards, but a more antiquated system, where charitable funds are controlled by individual rabbis, has persisted. Rabbi Elie Abadie of the Edmond J. Safra synagogue in Manhattan says that the community also maintained “a mom and pop shop” style of philanthropy, not always subject to “oversight or checks and balances,” which made its charities more vulnerable to allegations of improprieties. David G. Greenfield of the Sephardic Community Federation says there will now be a focus on “transparency,” lay boards and “accountability.”