Washington Gadfly

Liberal Jewish And Black Leaders Hold Festival For Crown Heights Pogrom Anniversary

(EVY MAGES/AFP/Getty Images)

Evan Gahr Investigative Journalist

Thought puzzle: suppose the good folks of Philadelphia, Mississippi this year had marked the June 1964 slaying of three civil rights workers — two  black, one Jewish — by white racists with a huge street carnival to show how much better blacks and whites get along these days. No more misunderstandings about visiting civil rights activists being “outside agitators” or Communist plants like all those years ago!

They would deservedly get attacked for moral obtuseness, historic revisionism and whitewashing murderous racism. If you think that is an exaggeration or hyperbole, let’s remember that Ronald Reagan and the GOP are still attacked as race-baiters because he launched his 1980 campaign in that town. Imagine what would happen if he also held a carnival!

But with the kind of historical revisionism that would make David Irving proud, the Anti-Defamation League and black Brooklyn political leaders Sunday held a street festival in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, complete with rides and games, on the 25th anniversary of Talmudic student Yankel Rosenbaum’s fatal encounter with a black lynch mob.

Why? To show how great blacks and Jews in the community get along these days. Who could argue with any of that?

Well, anybody whose fealty is to historic accuracy not political agendas. Contrary to what the festival suggests, Crown Heights, both the killing of Yankel Rosenbaum and three ensuing days of rioting and looting was not due to some huge miscommunication between two equally aggrieved groups.

It was a pogrom, just like in Europe, except Rosenbaum was killed by a black man, not a white Christian. Seth Lipsky, who covered the riots extensively as editor of The Forward, recounted the chilling details in his New York Post column last week.

“Crown Heights erupted after a driver in the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s motorcade lost control and killed a black child, Gavin Cato,” he recounted. “That was an accident. The murderous mayhem that ensued was deliberate. Within hours, a Jewish scholar, Yankel Rosenbaum, was knifed to death by a member of a mob, some yelling, ‘Kill the Jew.'”

At Cato’s funeral, Al Sharpton implied vengeance against racist Hasidic Jews was justified. “Talk about how Oppenheimer in South Africa sends diamonds straight to Tel Aviv and deals with the diamond merchants right here in Crown Heights. The issue is not anti-Semitism; the issue is apartheid,” he exhorted. “All we want to say is what Jesus said: If you offend one of these little ones, you got to pay for it. No compromise, no meetings, no coffee klatsch, no skinnin’ and grinnin’.”

For three days roving bands of black youths attacked Jews. Ari Goldman, who helped cover the riots for the New York Times, disclosed in a 2011 Jewish Week article how his paper tried to lay equal blame on both Jews and black, kind of like the festival did Sunday.

“In all my reporting during the riots I never saw — or heard of — any violence by Jews against blacks,” Goldman recalled. “But the Times was dedicated to this version of events: blacks and Jews clashing amid racial tensions.”

No wonder that Yankel Rosenbaum’s brother Norman was livid upon learning about the festival. He told the Post that, “It is truly an indictment that on the day 25 years ago Yankel was attacked amidst the violent cries of the anti-Semitic rioters to ‘Kill the Jew! Kill the Jew!’ that the tragic loss of his life and the circumstances of his murder are today not worth more than games, music, festival rides, arts and crafts, live entertainment and nonkosher food.”

There were even “animal baloons,” the Post reported. No word on whether the games Sunday included “Whac-a-Mohel” or “Pin the horns on the Jew.” But what that really have been so out of place?

Sharpton’s office did not respond to repeated emails about whether he would apologize for his “diamond merchants” broadside.

True redemption is impossible without honesty first.