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“It should call out to every Jew:” Crown Heights rallies for Black Lives Matter

“This is such a blessing. I’ve been here through riots and we had different uprisings and different things that went on in the Crown Heights community between Blacks and Jews. This to me is, I’m almost choked,” said Felicia Gomes, 55, a lifelong Crown Heights resident after stumbling upon a Black Lives Matter solidarity march in her neighborhood organized by the community’s Jewish residents.

On Sunday more than 100 people marched through the heart of Jewish life in Crown Heights, past 770 (the worldwide headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch Movement) and along a major street to show their support for Black Lives Matters.

A Black Lives Matter march was held by the Crown Heights Jewish Community on Sunday, June 7, 2020.

A Black Lives Matter march was held by the Crown Heights Jewish Community on Sunday, June 7, 2020. Image by John Kunza

Carrying signs and chanting, rally organizers encouraged their fellow Chabadniks to stand up for Black Lives Matters saying it was a matter of Jewish law to do so.

A Black Lives Matter march was held by the Crown Heights Jewish Community on Sunday, June 7, 2020.

A Black Lives Matter march was held by the Crown Heights Jewish Community on Sunday, June 7, 2020. Image by John Kunza

“My heart also cries out as a Jew for a very specific reason. I’m a Lubavitcher, this is our neighborhood, the Lubavitcher Rebbe is sort of the spiritual leader here,” Ephraim Sherman, one of the organizers of the rally, told the crowd. “And he put a special emphasis on the Sheva Mitzvot B’nei Noach, the 7 laws that apply equally to all human beings. And one of those is establishing a justice system. Emphasis on the word justice.”

A Black Lives Matter march was held by the Crown Heights Jewish Community on Sunday, June 7, 2020.

A Black Lives Matter march was held by the Crown Heights Jewish Community on Sunday, June 7, 2020. Image by John Kunza

“And if an agent of the justice system can murder a person in cold blood that doesn’t just call out as a human issue, as an American issue, to me that calls out as a Halachic issue, a Jewish law issue. It should call out to every Jew,” he added.

A Black Lives Matter march was held by the Crown Heights Jewish Community on Sunday, June 7, 2020.

A Black Lives Matter march was held by the Crown Heights Jewish Community on Sunday, June 7, 2020. Image by John Kunza

On top of being home to the Chabad movement, Crown Heights is also historically a Caribbean, African-American neighborhood. Tensions boiled over in 1991 when the motorcade of Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson accidentally struck 2 children of Guyanese immigrants, killing one. A three day riot ensued which left 2 people dead.

A Black Lives Matter march was held by the Crown Heights Jewish Community on Sunday, June 7, 2020.

A Black Lives Matter march was held by the Crown Heights Jewish Community on Sunday, June 7, 2020. Image by John Kunza

Since the August, 1991, riot much work has been done to ease the racial tension in the neighborhood where African Americans make up more than 60% of the residents.

A Black Lives Matter march was held by the Crown Heights Jewish Community on Sunday, June 7, 2020.

A Black Lives Matter march was held by the Crown Heights Jewish Community on Sunday, June 7, 2020. Image by John Kunza

“I can’t even explain it. As a person who grew up in Crown Heights in 55 years I’ve never seen this. Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” said Gomes at the rally’s end.

A Black Lives Matter march was held by the Crown Heights Jewish Community on Sunday, June 7, 2020.

A Black Lives Matter march was held by the Crown Heights Jewish Community on Sunday, June 7, 2020. Image by John Kunza

A Black Lives Matter march was held by the Crown Heights Jewish Community on Sunday, June 7, 2020.

A Black Lives Matter march was held by the Crown Heights Jewish Community on Sunday, June 7, 2020. Image by John Kunza

A Black Lives Matter march was held by the Crown Heights Jewish Community on Sunday, June 7, 2020.

A Black Lives Matter march was held by the Crown Heights Jewish Community on Sunday, June 7, 2020. Image by John Kunza

A Black Lives Matter march was held by the Crown Heights Jewish Community on Sunday, June 7, 2020.

A Black Lives Matter march was held by the Crown Heights Jewish Community on Sunday, June 7, 2020. Image by John Kunza

The Jewish community of Crown Heights held a Black Lives Matter march on June 7, 2020.

The Jewish community of Crown Heights held a Black Lives Matter march on June 7, 2020. Image by John Kunza

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