Vivian Gruder, born 1937, grew up on Fulton Avenue, across the street from Crotona Park. She fondly remembers the park and how, when her older siblings were young, people would take chairs and sit in the park to escape the heat. The area is described as a “Jewish Village,” though the schools were more mixed with Irish teachers and Italian and some classmates of color, though her friends were mostly Jewish. She remembers a baseball game of the Jewish boys versus the Italian boys. Gruder describes kosher butchers and shops along Bathgate Avenue. Her mother stayed at home, and her father sold butter and eggs. She played outside in the park and the street and inside with various board games. Gruder describes seeing Frank Sinatra at the Roxy, bringing him flowers.
Gruder attended the YM/WYCA which had folk dancing and Tremont Talmud Torah. Tremont Avenue also held a library and move theaters she often visited. Her mother took courses at Hunter College, but he father’s education ended when he was conscripted at age 13 to dig trenches for the Austrian army. He came to the US in 1921, but was a Zionist and had wanted to go to Palestine. Gruder describes many of her teachers and how she participated in the SP program, graduating from high school and attending college at 16 years old. She attended Roosevelt High School, her neighborhood school, and refused to take the entrance exam to Bronx Science because she wanted to pursue history, calling her experience at Roosevelt mediocre. Her brother got her interested in history. Gruder attended Barnard and her family moved to Inwood during this time because the commute was difficult. She got interested in French History her senior year and decided to go to graduate school, disappointing her father who had wanted her to go to Brandeis to meet a nice Jewish husband. Education was an unspoken value.
Gruder went on to get her doctorate from Harvard in French History. She completed a Fulbright and did research in France before returning to New York City to teach. She remembers the demographic changes in the Bronx and tells how people were motivated by fear of difference to slowly begin to move out. The Irish had been the tougher groups in her youth, but even in Inwood later it became predominantly Dominican. She ends with stories interacting with Jackie Robinson and a visit to the Soviet Union.
Crotona Park, Roosevelt High School, Irish, Italian, African American, Bathgate Avenue, Tremont Avenue, history, education, Barnard, World War One, Soviet Jewry, Harvard University
Maier Garcia, Sophia, "Gruder, Vivian" (2023). Bronx Jewish History Project. 21.