Crown Heights Panel Scrapped After Sharpton Backs Out

By Forward Staff

Published August 18, 2011.
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Rev. Al Sharpton backed out of a panel discussion on the relationship between blacks and Jews after the brother of Yankel Rosenbaum objected to his presence, and organizers then scrapped the event.

Sharpton told Rabbi Marc Schneier, who organized the panel set for this Sunday in the Hamptons, that he did not want to participate at a time so close to the 20th anniversary of the Crown Heights riots in which Yankel Rosenbaum was killed.

Sharpton said in a two-page letter that he wanted to respect the Rosenbaum family’s wishes.

“Since the event has now been distorted and would cause pain to (Rosenbaum), I, out of respect to his request, have decided to decline to participate in Sunday’s event,” Sharpton concluded.

“Clearly, the Al Sharpton of 2011 is not the Al Sharpton of 1991.”

Schneier said he “regretted” Sharpton’s decision and postponed the event indefinitely.

“Dialogue is especially important on matters of profound disagreement,” Schneier said in announcing the decision.

Norman Rosenbaum cheered the decision through a spokesman.

The brother earlier blasted Sharpton’s planned appearance on a four-person panel titled “State of Black-Jewish Relations: Twenty Years after Crown Heights” Sunday event at the Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton Beach, N.Y.

“Rabbi Marc Schneier should take a damn good, hard look at the videos of the riots over the three-day period, look at the media reports and he’ll see there clearly the role Al Sharpton played,” Norman Rosenbaum, Yankel’s brother, told reporters in New York on Wednesday, WINS-1010 reported.

The riots started after Gavin Cato, a 7-year-old black child, was struck and killed by a car in the motorcade of the Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Scheerson, in August 1991. Rosenbaum, who was visiting from Australia, was fatally stabbed later that night.

Sharpton was accused of fueling the three days of riots with his actions and remarks. He led a protest march of hundreds shouting “No justice, no peace” through the streets of Crown Heights to the Lubavitcher movement’s world headquarters.

After the riots had subsided, at Cato’s funeral, he referred to the neighborhood’s Chasidic Jews as “diamond merchants.”

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