With Help From A Jewish Agency, A Coney Island Program Fights Street Violence One Kid At A Time



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    With Help From A Jewish Agency, A Coney Island Program Fights Street Violence One Kid At A Time

    On a recent afternoon at the headquarters of Operation H.O.O.D. in Coney Island, just hours before three to four dozen teenagers are due to roll through the building for an afternoon full of activities, the four staff members discuss what they have planned… • Full Story

    Brooklyn (New York Jewish Week) – On a recent afternoon at the headquarters of Operation H.O.O.D. in Coney Island, just hours before three to four dozen teenagers are due to roll through the building for an afternoon full of activities, the four staff members discuss what they have planned.

    They make sure the dumbbells and exercise machines in the weight room are organized and working, the Xboxes are turned on, the pool table is racked and the art supplies are out.

    Derick Latif Scott, the executive director, is busy scheduling the programming events through the rest of the year, which include basketball tournaments, Secret Santa giveaways and pop-up cookouts. He is also fielding calls from the 60th Police Precinct and a State Assembly member who are asking for information about a shooting that happened near the Coney Island Boardwalk the night before.

    Operation H.O.O.D., which stands for Helping Our Own Develop, is part of the city’s Cure Violence initiative — a method of treating gun violence as a public health issue. Piloted by Jewish epidemiologist Gary Slutkin in Chicago in the early 2000s, the approach treats street violence as a disease needing to be interrupted and prevented.

    At their new 3,000-square-foot headquarters and walk-in center on Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island, local kids and teenagers can come after school and on the weekends to keep busy and stay safe.

    “They really believe it is a safe haven in the neighborhood,” staff member Howard Ayers, who is known as “Papa Bear” by the kids, told the New York Jewish Week.

    Operation H.O.O.D. is also one of the social services operated in the neighborhood through the Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island, whose own headquarters are just a few blocks away from the Operation H.O.O.D. site. The Jewish non-profit helps operate the organization’s $1.8 million budget and secure more funding from the city and state, and assists in acquiring additional social services within the program, like mental health counseling and conflict resolution programs in nearby public schools.

    Rabbi Moshe Weiner has been the executive director of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island since 1981. “In keeping with the biblically mandated role of the Jewish people as ‘a light unto the nations,’  the duty of a Jew in carrying out his mission in life includes not only service to the Jewish people, but also service to the society and world at large,” Weiner told the New York Jewish Week about his nonprofit’s role with Operation H.O.O.D.

    The previous night’s shooting is the reason the headquarters is understaffed that afternoon: The rest of Operation H.O.O.D.’s team was out in the field doing “shooting response,” another facet of their anti-violence work.

    Ayers runs most operations and activities at the recreation center, including boxing and weightlifting programs. “We really appreciate how much we’ve been able to give them with this space,” he says, reflecting on the new digs, which opened June 29.

    In addition to all the recreational activities, the space has a large office area and meeting room, where teens can meet with a social intake worker, complete homework or fill out job applications. A sign on the back wall reads, “If you can run a gang, you can run a company,” alongside other framed motivational quotes.

    “It’s a drop in the bucket for what’s necessary,” Scott said. In another shooting the week before, five people were injured on the boardwalk. Coney Island has already had nearly 200 felonious assault complaints — attacks involving violent weapons — this year to date. That number is down 9% from the same period last year, according to data from the NYPD, and 56% since 1993.

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    With Help From A Jewish Agency, A Coney Island Program Fights Street Violence One Kid At A Time



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