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Remembering Blue Hill Ave.

By Molly Ritvo - Tuesday December 11 2007

Schlossberg directs 'Sidewalk Memories'

Filmmaker Kenneth Schlossberg of Canton remembers when Mattapan was “the Jewish hub” of Massachusetts. To him, this meant Blue Hill Avenue during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.

In an effort to recapture the memories of his long lost Jewish paradise, Schlossberg, who lived on Blue Hill Avenue – along with more than 300 other Jews – until he was 13, is directing a documentary called “Sidewalk Memories.”

“This film is a way for people to discover a part of Boston history – a part that is long forgotten,” said Schlossberg, whose film should be completed in 2008. “Many people do not know what it was like when the Jews first lived in Dorchester and Mattapan. It was like heaven. Our whole block was our lives.”

Schlossberg, the owner of a funeral parlor, started making his documentary last year when he discovered that many of his childhood friends gathered together to talk about life on the block.

“People in my generation want to talk,” he said. “This history is part of us. We just played together growing up while our mothers sat on their porches painting their nails. My mother would tie a sign around my neck that said ‘send home at dinnertime’ and Blue Hill Ave. was my playground. We didn’t need to go anywhere else.”

Schlossberg said he hopes “Sidewalk Memories” will be featured on PBS when completed. Currently, Schlossberg is interviewing friends about their childhood in hopes of highlighting the social life and economic situation in Boston’s Jewish community of Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan from the 1930s through the 1960s.

Schlossberg added that viewers should understand that his district, Ward 14, was more than just an area for politicians to get the Jewish votes.

" It was an area where no one was ever alone,” he said. “Such little information is out there, besides from stories, of how life used to be. I want to bring my sacred childhood alive today so people will know a part of our history that seems to be erased.”

According to Schlossberg, the Jewish community left Blue Hill Avenue in the 1960s due to “some form of anti-Semitism.” He claimed that real estate agents began drastically raising the prices of renting apartments, which often housed 13 people on one narrow floor.
“They also used surreptitious scare tactics, by saying that African Americans were going to come in and kick us out,” said Schlossberg. “By 1969, there were no more Jews left on Blue Hill Avenue.”

In order to fund his film, Schlossberg started a non-profit organization called Ghetto Memories Associates, Inc. and he has received donations from private donors and larger organizations, including the Jewish Community Relations Council.

“I am so glad that Kenneth is making this film,” said Nancy K. Kaufman, executive director of the JCRC. “I spent a lot of time in Mattapan and Dorchester growing up because that’s where the cute boys were. A lot of people don’t know the history of that area and it’s time they do.”

Also featured in “Sidewalk Memories” is the late Melvin Goldstein, a major figure in the local Jewish community.
“Blue Hill Ave. was a conglomerate of all the kosher stores in the area in one street,” Golstein says in the film. “It was a little bit of a grocery story, a little bit of meat, a little bit of fish.”

Added Schlossberg: “The whole block was our home. Everyone knew everyone. I am always nostalgic for it.

For more information on “Sidewalk Memories,” visit http://www.sidewalkmemories.org.


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