Shapiro carefully dissects these events, but this book is more than mere reportage. It serves as a valuable historical and sociological document. He analyzes the demographic uniqueness of Crown Heights, the social and political status of the Jews and their African-American and Caribbean neighbors and the role played by opportunistic hangers-on. Ultimately he implicitly poses the question of whether or not a salvageable “black-Jewish progressive political entente” ever existed.
Shapiro describes the community’s efforts to heal the wounds that were opened in 1991, but when he attempts to discern hopeful signs, he finds that “the neighborhood did not fundamentally change and the Jews did not flee.” Perhaps this is an important realization: that there are good people in Crown Heights who live simple lives that are rooted in their cultures. Unlike the pundits who seek the bigger answers, they simply try to live in peace.