Last week a student at the controversial Urban Dove Charter School in Flatbush, Brooklyn, was fatally shot as he left the school building. The incident is a reminder that the opposition to the school mounted by the Flatbush Jewish community two and a half years ago on the ground that a distinctly Jewish neighborhood was not an appropriate site for a school for troubled minority students was not racist but was rather a practical assessment of the probability of what was in store for the neighborhood.
Sadly, it took the death of 17-year-old African American student Devonte Lewish to underscore the legitimacy of the point. According to news reports, two suspects were seen running from the scene. No arrests have been made yet.
Back in December of 2019, when the impending establishment of the school – as well as the community-wide opposition to it – was being reported, the New York Daily News featured an editorial entitled, “A Shanda: Shame On Some Midwood Jews Raising Racially Insensitive Alarms About A Charter School In The Neighborhood.”
And here is some of what the accompanying news story said:
Imagine a black church in Bedford-Stuyvesant renting space to a predominantly Jewish high school. Imagine surrounding residents seething about “those kids” coming into “our neighborhood.” Imagine local elected officials feeding the fear and the loathing.
The photo negative of that ugly scene is playing out around Brooklyn’s East Midwood Jewish Center, a synagogue in a mostly Jewish neighborhood with plans to provide a home to a charter school that serves 300 black and brown kids….
Urban Dove admits 15- and 16-year olds who have failed the ninth grade; they are 71% black and 24% Hispanic. All that qualifies kids to attend is being academically behind. The school’s climate survey in its current Bed-Stuy location compares favorably to that of Midwood and Murrow High Schools, two schools near the synagogue that 8000 students attend.
No matter. At a heated meeting late last month, residents aired unfounded anxieties about the “security of my children”….
But the Urban Dove group has never directly addressed the issue of the prevalence of violence and related issues at its schools. (For example, neighborhood school opponents claimed that “guns, violence, sexual activity…were a regular occurrence” at the school’s former location in Bedford-Stuyvesant.) Rather, their typical response was deflection – they didn’t give actual statistics of violent or related events, but rather stated how they compare with other local schools.
Yet, these other schools have violence problems of their own such that any comparison tells us nothing about the actual possible harm to be visited upon the neighborhoods. And having been around the block a few times, we know that if the hard numbers worked for them, they would have provided them.
The takeaway here is that Jewish communities should not be attacked when they act to protect their school-age population. No less than their African-American and Latino counterparts, they want the best for their kids. We don’t claim to have the definitive answer as to where to locate schools that cater to problem kids, but the point is that when we act to protect our own, we are dealing with valid – not racist – motives.