20 Years: Call the Crown Heights Riots What They Were: Anti-Semitic


sharpton-crown-heights-riotsFrom The Jewish Week: The Crown Heights riots, one of the most traumatic events in American Jewish history, still elicits shivers and arguments as if it were yesterday, rather than 20 years ago. What was clear from the Girgenti Report, commissioned by Gov. Mario Cuomo, is that the riot was not a “race riot” but an anti-Semitic riot.

Many Jewish organizations were hesitant to condemn the mayor’s handling of the riot or to label it for what it was – something reminiscent of a pogrom. To give these Jewish organizations the benefit of the doubt, it was a week of shock and disbelief. But even before that August was over, Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told The New York Times that his hesitancy had been a mistake.

“Anti-Semitism is all over the place in Crown Heights,” said Foxman that summer. “It is ugly, it is crude, it is classical and it is deadly. And the fact that it is American and it is black should not make it invisible or tolerable.”

When confronted with tragedy, personal or communal, we look for reasons. Did the blacks of Crown Heights have grievances? Perhaps. There were charges that Lubavitchers were granted preferential treatment in the neighborhood. But the killer of Yankel Rosenbaum wasn’t even from Crown Heights; he was visiting his friend in the neighborhood. He had a knife – inscribed “Killer” – at the ready in his pocket when he joined a mob that was shouting “Kill the Jews.”

One lesson of Crown Heights must be to recognize that good people with grievances don’t stab a passerby or break down doors and attack someone’s wife or daughter. The pogromists of Kishinev had grievances, too. It’s a dangerous mistake to analyze anti-Semitic terror in search of a legitimate grievance.

On the one hand, Jews have a civil right to feel protected by the police and not be stereotyped and scapegoated by their neighbors, whatever their “grievances.” On the other hand, as Tevye would say, knowing something about pogroms…

No, said Tevye, there is no other hand.

{The Jewish Week}

{Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. certainly was anti-semitism. But i think even more it was just a certain demographic showing their true “colors”, and many of their leaders egging them on . the mayor doing nothing.

    I believe if it were a different community-not jewish that they neighbored they may have done the same

  2. Wow, I am an Orthodox African-American, Korean, and Jewish (mixed family) from California and I take a lot of issue with your saying a “certain demographic” is showing their true “colors”. Yes, there was antisemitism in Crown Heights. And yes, there is racism coming right out of your mouth. To think, my own people like you make me uncomfortable in my own skin.

  3. Dinkins should have been arrested and jailed for not responding to this murderous rampage. YEMACH SHMO VZICHRO
    that fat loser Farakan should be put to trial for inciting the riot and the murder!!!!!!!!!!!