Ear­li­er this week, Lucette Lagna­do wrote about an arro­gant rev­o­lu­tion and about mourn­ing her Arab Spring. She has been blog­ging all week for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ings Vis­it­ing Scribe.

This past week­end I was lost — and found — in Brooklyn.

My Sun­day began with an appear­ance on a pan­el about the Arab Spring at the chic, hip­ster­ish Brook­lyn Book Fes­ti­val. It was an ani­mat­ed dis­cus­sion, and my fel­low pan­el-mem­bers were ami­able, but I felt lone­ly, very much in the minor­i­ty as I spoke out against the bru­tal attack on the Israeli Embassy in Cairo. The attempt­ed storm­ing of the embassy last week was a turn­ing point as far as I was con­cerned, a time to start ask­ing tough ques­tions about the rev­o­lu­tion and whether it had gone seri­ous­ly off-track, to demand to know what hap­pened to the ear­ly goals of democ­ra­cy and peace on Tahrir Square.

The con­sen­sus, though, was that rev­o­lu­tions took time to play out – one mem­ber sug­gest­ed 100 years.

And I thought there was such a des­per­ate need for change – imme­di­ate reforms.
One thought­ful pan­el mem­ber from Cairo did sug­gest that many Egyp­tians were shocked by the attack, that it was unex­pect­ed; I was heart­ened to hear at least that there was a sense of shame about it in Egypt.

I walked out feel­ing odd­ly blue, melan­choly. Here I was in Brook­lyn, where I grew up, and yet I was struck by that feel­ing of not belong­ing that returns to haunt me every once in a while.

As I wan­dered the streets of Brook­lyn Heights with its mul­ti-mil­lion dol­lar man­sions and ele­gant res­i­dents, and then of near­by Park Slope which is, if pos­si­ble, look­ing even sleek­er these days, I real­ized that this fash­ion­able Brook­lyn had noth­ing to do with the Brook­lyn of my child­hood, the bor­ough where my fam­i­ly and I had once sought refuge, where we had found a haven among equal­ly impov­er­ished refugees from the Lev­ant.

I also knew the only pos­si­ble way to cope with my funk was to go imme­di­ate­ly tothat Brooklyn.

* * * *

I have always thought it was odd that with this Brook­lyn renais­sance, the fact that some of the borough’s most God for­sak­en areas have become de rigueur, my lit­tle enclave of Ben­son­hurst has remained decid­ed­ly un-chic.

I return every few months and find it to be pret­ty much the same as it was in my child­hood – staid and lack­ing in the cool­ness factor.

Some more immi­grant groups have moved in, to be sure, I see a lot of Rus­sians, and even some Has­sids – but not a sin­gle hip­ster. Not one.

Nor any of the young pro­fes­sion­al fam­i­lies that favor organ­ic food co-ops.
No, those qui­et some­what drea­ry blocks are pret­ty much the way they were when I was a kid, long­ing to escape and wish­ing there was more excitement.

My trips to Ben­son­hurst always have a rit­u­al qual­i­ty to them, like a reli­gious pil­grim­age. I must go to this block, I tell myself, I must pay my respects to that building.

There are no peo­ple left there that I knew, not a sin­gle famil­iar face — my com­mu­ni­ty long moved out — yet I keep returning.

The rit­u­al includes tak­ing my (very oblig­ing) hus­band to key mark­ers of my child­hood and point­ing them out all over again.

This was our first apart­ment in Amer­i­ca,” I’ll say, This was where Key Food, my first Amer­i­can super­mar­ket was situated.”

The high point of all such trips is a vis­it to 67th street, the block of the Magen David Syn­a­gogue (“The Shield of David” in my book), once the cen­ter of Syr­i­an Jew­ish life in New York, and its frail lit­tle neigh­bor, the build­ing that housed my shul.

Magen David is still there, but it is a mor­tu­ary now. I have been told there are occa­sion­al ser­vices, pos­si­bly even for the high hol­i­days, but it is cen­tral func­tion is clear, and has been clear for years – it is where the com­mu­ni­ty comes to hon­or its dead.

Pho­to by Peter Yang

No mat­ter how many times I hear that, it still shocks me, still makes me sad.
As for the lit­tle annex, the one that I refer to as the Shield of Young David in my mem­oir, it has gone through a thou­sand incar­na­tions since it was sold in the 1970s. These days, it appears to be a reli­gious school.

On this Sun­day after­noon, I make a dis­cov­ery that actu­al­ly helps me com­bat my Brook­lyn Heights blues. There in the front of the build­ing of my old shul are chil­dren – young Ortho­dox chil­dren scam­per­ing about, run­ning around the courtyard.

They are play­ing in the court­yard, the way you did as a child,” my hus­band points out.

It has tak­en years, decades, yet I real­ize that against the odds, hope has come back to this small cor­ner of Brook­lyn that con­tin­ues to haunt my imag­i­na­tion as nowhere else on earth.

Lucette Lagnado’s most recent book, The Arro­gant Years: One Girl’s Search for Her Lost Youth, from Cairo to Brook­lyn, is now avail­able. Lucette won the 2008 Sami Rohr Prize for Jew­ish Lit­er­a­ture for her mem­oir The Man in the White Shark­skin Suit: A Jew­ish Family’s Exo­dus from Old Cairo to the New World.