Sharpton Admits Crown Heights 'Mistakes'

By JTA

Published August 22, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Rev. Al Sharpton says he made “mistakes” during the Crown Heights riots 20 years ago.

Sharpton has been faulted for playing the role of agitator during three days of riots in which African-Americans rampaged through a Brooklyn neighborhood, killing a Jewish student, after a black boy had been struck and killed by a vehicle driven by a Chasidic Jew. During the unrest, Sharpton led a march of hundreds shouting “No justice, no peace” through the streets of Crown Heights to the Lubavitcher movement’s world headquarters.

The riots started after Gavin Cato, a 7-year-old African-American child, was struck and killed by a car in the motorcade of the Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Scheerson, in August 1991. Yankel Rosenbaum, a Jewish scholar visiting from Australia, was fatally stabbed later that night by a mob. After the riots had subsided, at Cato’s funeral Sharpton referred to the neighborhood’s Chasidic Jews as “diamond merchants.”

This week’s admission of mistakes came in an Op-Ed published in the N.Y. Daily News on Sunday, the same day Sharpton had been slated to participate in at an event hosted by the Hampton Synagogue titled “The State of Black-Jewish Relations: Twenty Years after Crown Heights.” He withdrew from the event last week after Rosenbaum’s brother, Norman Rosenbaum, criticized the synagogue’s rabbi, Marc Schneier, for hosting Sharpton.

“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,” Rosenbaum told reporters last week.

In the editorial, Sharpton wrote he was initially unaware of Rosenbaum’s death, and that he regretted choosing not to mention him during the funeral. He also suggested that tensions were equally exacerbated by both Jewish and black “extremists.”

Jewish residents of the area maintain there was no extremism from the Jewish side during the riots, just defense against what amounted to a pogrom. Ari L. Goldman, who covered the riots for The New York Times, recently wrote an essay in the N.Y. Jewish Week asserting that reports of violence by Jews were fabricated, as far as he knew.

“Twenty years later, I have grown,” Sharpton wrote on Sunday. “I would still have stood up for Gavin Cato, but I would have also included in my utterances that there was no justification or excuse for violence or for the death of Yankel Rosenbaum.”

He also wrote that “extremists” had deliberately misconstrued his “diamond merchants” comment, which he claimed referred only “to the likes of the Oppenheimer family – which at the time was trading diamonds with apartheid South Africa.”

“I spent years defending the statement, rather then recognizing that in hours of tension one must be clearer than any other time.” he said.






Find us on Facebook!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.