Jewish Studies


Ann Joy Becker, born 1959, grew up outside of Parkchester on Thieriot Avenue in the Archer Stratton Co-op. Her grandparents, immigrants from Eastern Europe, were peddlers on Pelham Parkway. She attended PS 102 and Columbus High School, because her mother did not want her to go to James Monroe High School because it was considered a bad school and dangerous for a white girl. The co-op and surrounding area was mostly Jewish and Italian, with minorities on the other side of the highway. Becker explains there were more issues with other white ethnic groups than with minorities at that time. Color was not an issue to the children, although her mother did express prejudices when it came to who Becker was allowed to date.

Because of her father’s work with the transit authority as his service in the Air Force, Becker grew up driving around the East Coast on vacations. Her mother was a punch key operator, but stayed home after she got married. The co-op setting expanded the system of adults to take of the children in the buildings, like shifts taking care of children during a measles outbreak. Becker describes it as “a commune, but without the commune.” Part of this feeling she also credits to larger Jewish solidarity. She describes the impacts that various teachers and school administrators have had on her, good and bad.

Becker has been interested in the feminist and gay rights movements, and how her outspoken nature made it difficult to be a teacher after she went back to school later in life. Growing up a tomboy, she never felt limited by her gender. Although her family did not keep kosher, she has been a lifelong member of Hadassah because of her grandmother and came to appreciate religion more later in life. Becker is thankful for her Jewish and Bronx upbringing and believes her life and who she is would be completely different if it were not for those things. Her mother was supportive when she came out as gay, but Becker decided she wanted to move into Manhattan. Nonetheless, she maintained a close connection with her and visited the Bronx frequently until she moved out of New York City. She has an immense sense of pride about being from the Bronx and sees that and her Jewishness as core parts of her identity.

Key words:

Sephardic, Ashkenazi, Parkchester, Archer Stratton Co-op, cooperative housing, Columbus High School, German, black, Italian, gay, feminism, Hadassah, education, pride