In Parts I and II of this story, we learned about the decline of the Jewish community in Roxbury and Dorchester in the 1960’s and how JF&CS was able to spring into action, bringing shopping trips, transportation, and cultural and social programming to the isolated Jewish elders who remained in those neighborhoods. In this final chapter, we examine the larger picture and see how JF&CS mobilized to physically relocate these elders to other neighborhoods where they could rejoin the Jewish community and feel less isolated.
By the summer of 1970, the situation had become dire for the remaining elderly Jews of Roxbury and Dorchester. The Elderly Project staff met with the BHA to initiate a police protection program for elderly, Jewish BHA residents. Several elderly clients’ residences had been broken into, and some elders had been robbed and beaten – repeatedly. One client was in the hospital, injured from her fifth robbery/beating. Some had experienced teens banging on their doors at all hours, while others had found dog feces deposited in their doorways. One client’s apartment had even been fire-bombed while she and her disabled sister were inside the apartment.
JF&CS began to receive many calls from elderly people seeking relocation help from the agency. Not only were apartments scarce at the time, but the elderly had mixed feelings about relocating. Rents in the newer Jewish communities of Allston, Brighton, and Brookline were much higher than in Roxbury and Dorchester. Many elders lived in larger, multi-room apartments or even houses, and the thought of moving into an “efficiency” (one-room) apartment was not appealing. Some found the prospect of selling off their personal possessions in order to scale down into an efficiency unit off-putting or unsurmountable. Home owners were also suffering great financial loss in selling their homes. Some expressed that they would rather live in fear and isolation than give up their memory-filled, larger living situations for the unknown.
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