It’s a sunny Saturday morning in Great Neck, New York, and Larry Bencivenga is taking me on a driving tour. Bencivenga is the head security guard at a local synagogue for Iranian-American Jews.
He tells me that when the Persian Jews emigrated to Great Neck — a Long Island suburb about thirty minutes by train from Manhattan — they transformed the community. They built stained-glass synagogues and colossal homes — “That garage is bigger than my house!” Bencivenga laughs as he points to a mansion — which has since led to a broader pattern of gentrification in the area as a whole.
“You can tell which homes are Persian because they’re made out of brick,” Bencivenga tells me. Why brick? “They want them to last forever.”
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