August 19th, 2011
06:24 PM ET

On 20th anniversary of Crown Heights riots, some Jews see a pogrom

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - Friday marked the 20th anniversary of the Crown Heights riots in Brooklyn, New York, a three-day spell of violence set off when a Hasidic Jewish driver accidentally struck and killed a black youth, 7-year-old Gavin Cato.

As rumors spread that the death was intentional and that a Hasidic ambulance crew declined to help the boy, some of the neighborhood’s African-Americans reacted violently, with one group killing a 29-year-old Jew named Yankel Rosenbaum.

The anniversary has provoked lots of commentary on Jewish websites, with prominent Jewish writers recasting the riots as a pogrom, a word that connotes anti-Jewish violence.

In The Forward, a Jewish newspaper, author and Columbia University professor Sam Freedman describes the Crown Heights riots thusly:

Here was a modern-day pogrom — not sanctioned by government, but surely abetted by the inadequate response of the police, who in an unfortunate coincidence were under the command of a black mayor and a black commissioner — that left religious scholar Yankel Rosenbaum dead and the air filled with anti-Semitic rhetoric.

And in The New York Jewish Week, Ari Goldman, who covered the riots for The New York Times, chides his former paper for portraying the violence as something other than anti-Semitic:

In all my reporting during the riots I never saw — or heard of — any violence by Jews against blacks. But the Times was dedicated to this version of events: blacks and Jews clashing amid racial tensions. To show Jewish culpability in the riots, the paper even ran a picture — laughable even at the time — of a Chasidic man brandishing an open umbrella before a police officer in riot gear. The caption read: “A police officer scuffling with a Hasidic man yesterday on President Street"

Goldman describes an exasperated phone call with an editor during the violence:

“You don’t know what’s happening here!” I yelled. “I am on the streets getting attacked. Someone next to me just got hit. I am writing memos and what comes out in the paper? ‘Hasidim and blacks clashed’? That’s not what is happening here. Jews are being attacked! You’ve got this story all wrong. All wrong.”

Though relations between blacks and Jews have been generally peaceful in the years since, bad feelings from the Crown Heights riots still linger. The Rev. Al Sharpton, who eulogized Gavin Cato after the attacks, announced this week he was pulling out of a panel at New York's Hampton Synagogue after some Jewish activists criticized his participation in the event.

Some accused Sharpton of abetting violence during the Crown Heights Violence, though he denies such a role and points to a New York State report that absolved him of a role in the violence.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Black issues • Judaism • New York

soundoff (144 Responses)
  1. Xtreme No Brasil

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    July 20, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  2. JohnQuest

    Naomi, thats weird, I met a lot of Jews both in the US and Israel the vast majority of them were White (Caucasian), so what you are really saying is you white (Europeans) have almost annihilated whites (Europeans) many times, do I have that right?

    FYI, I'm not white nor am I European. I am however, a very proud American.

    August 23, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Naomi

      Most Europeans were whites. The Jews are Jewish. Even overlapping, it's mainly in the Europe most Jews made a strong presence. They never merged into the mainstream and had a hard time although I'm sure life anywhere else must be very hard for them. Human societies are cruel on unyielding minoroties. The West had received so much from Christianity and the Jews. You have a duty to protect Israel.

      August 24, 2011 at 2:18 am |
    • JohnQuest

      You still have not explained why I should support Israel? It seems to me that the Jews are from Europe not the Middle East, If they can only trace their history back to "the old country" somewhere in Europe how could they claim a land in the middle east and why should we support that? I have no idea what happened to the Jews of the bible but it appears that the Jews we have today and the Jews of the bible are not the same people (probably not the same race either). Are you saying that because a person adopts a religion that person can then claim the land that the religion started in? Think about how silly that claim really is, all the native Americans decide to become Hindu and then take over a large part of India, what would we look like supporting them even if they produce a book that says their God Vishnu give them that land?

      August 24, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • Naomi

      @John, here is a summary: The land of Palestine was given to the Jews by the Creator God Himself. The ancient natives were destroyed altogether being worse than Sodomites, and the recent ones lost the wars like American Indians did. Palestinians refuse to have a state. Arabs hate Israel. Both Europe and America hugely benefitted from the Jews though Jews went through hard time under them. The Jews were no mere parasites. Israel plays the role of balacing the West and Arabs and other powers. USA needs to assist Israel because of the Jewish con-tri-bution in the land AND for self-defense.

      August 24, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • Naomi

      John, there are other reasons USA must help Israel. Read the Bible and read Jewish-American relation books.

      August 24, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • JohnQuest

      Naomi, you said yourself that the people that God gave the land too are all gone (no decedents), so who are the people that are claiming the land now. How could they claim to be Gods chosen people if by your own words Gods chosen people are all Gone. By your words you could decide to become Jewish and you would have claim to the land any body could and any one did, God did not give the land to these Europeans. I find it odd and confusing that you can say that the people that God gave the land to are gone and that the Jews today are not the same people but it is okay that they claim the land. My question for you is, how do you justify supporting these current European Jews taking over a land that God gave to some other people?

      August 24, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  3. Big Man

    Pogroms? Perhaps they feel a bit guilty about something.

    August 23, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  4. Naomi

    @John, don't be simple. Israel has a tremendous meaning upon all mankind. Even USA is nothing comparing to her.

    August 23, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • Big Man

      Ha, ha, ha, ha..... more like a tremendous burden on the rest of mankind.

      August 23, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • Naomi

      @Big-Man, shut up, you big fat racist.

      August 23, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      Naomi, you still have not stated or explained what that meaning is?

      August 23, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Naomi

      @John, Israel is the main character in the story of Planet Earth. We Gentiles are sides. So back up and assist Israel like a good side character, USA.

      August 24, 2011 at 2:21 am |
    • Naomi

      @John, most Jews don't think they are the main character so they won't tell you openly. I don't know. They're just too busy to survive. Read the Bible to knock off your meaningless atheistic stupidity. The universe has a grand business for Israel that you atheists have no idea about. You'll stay in darkness because you blaspheme and scorn the Bible. Repent of your stupidity.

      August 24, 2011 at 2:26 am |
  5. JohnQuest

    Naomi, what do you mean by "fun-ctio-ning Americans were all from Europe"? Your statement "if US go-vern-ment supports Israel, there are reasons for it" is not an answer. I have studied American history, and European history, African History, and Middle Eastern history, which leads me to believe that you have no idea what you are talking about.

    August 23, 2011 at 8:42 am |
    • Naomi

      @John, good. Then it's easy. You whites almost annihilated the Jews many times. Bear your sin results by supporting Israel. If you lose Israel, all the villain nations will target Europe and America though it cannot happen since Israel cannot be lost. .

      August 23, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • BackAtchaB****

      Slimy Middle Easterners and Asians are all vermin and should all be eradicated.

      August 24, 2011 at 2:33 am |
  6. Dave

    And Sharpton is a coward, too. To this day he insists he was in no way to blame for the violence. Really, Al? You insist you were leading "peaceful protests." IT WAS A MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENT. It's sad but IT WAS AN ACCIDENT. What the heck were you "protesting" except the fact that it was a Jew behind the wheel? OF COURSE you were deliberately inflaming emotions.

    You used your eulogy to rant about "diamond merchants?" What the heck does a little boy's tragic death from getting hit by a car have to do with South African diamonds? Nothing, obviously. OF COURSE you were deliberately inflaming emotions.

    August 22, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • ladydi


      August 23, 2011 at 7:36 am |
  7. Dave

    It WAS a pogrom. Fed by LIES that a Jew had deliberately run over a black boy and MORE LIES that Jews deliberately let the boy die, and spurred on by a pillar of the community who showed up and ranted about "diamond merchants" in the neighborhood, a bunch of angry people went around attacking Jews indiscriminately. THAT IS A POGROM. It's no different when people stormed the schtetls, egged on by lies about Jews killing Christian children to make matzo from their blood.

    And David Dinkins will be forever branded by his cowardly refusal to act and stop the pogrom. Just for the record, I don't believe he showed any favoritism to the rioters because they were black. I think he did it just because he hates Jews.

    August 22, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  8. claybigsby

    Naomi needs to get off the blogs and get a JOB

    August 22, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  9. JohnQuest

    I wasn't in the states when this issue came about, but it seems to me that anytime anyone says anything the Jewish community (Religion) or Israel finds objectionable we hear cries of "Antisemitism". It is the same for Darker skinned Americans also, if you disagree with President Obama you are called a Racist. I'm certain that Antisemitism and Racism is in the hearts of some (too many), but not every disagreement is Antisemitic and Racist. I would vote to stop sending Billions of our tax dollars to fund (what I consider occupational governments) Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan and the like. I'm sure some would call me an Antisemitic, Islamiphobe but I just think other countries should solve their own issues.

    August 22, 2011 at 9:47 am |
    • Naomi

      @John: ??? I thought the Jews are sending their own money to Israel via US government.

      August 22, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • JohnQuest

      Are you saying that there is absolutely no possibility that any of the money I pay in taxes goes to regimes (or causes) I don't support?

      August 22, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • Naomi

      @John, I think your tax money goes to feeding your kids and their schooling. Calculate it correctly. America should pay to Israel because so many Jews pay so much tax to support poor Americans.

      August 22, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      What does Americans (who happen to belong to a particular religion or group) have to do with sending money to another country. By your logic we should send Billions to every country on the planet because descendants from that country now pay taxes here. But, please note that the majority of Jews living here are not from Israel they are Europeans, or Americans, even by your own standards your argument is unsound.

      August 22, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • Naomi

      John, the West has given the Jews hardest time for 2,000 years while getting so much from their intelligence. It's a pay-back time. Every Western nation should supprt Israel to amend the past evil. Besides, her presence is protecting freedom in the West. Just work hard and don't be a burden to US government. Unless you are paying millions of $ for tax, you are getting paid what you gave as tax.

      August 22, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Naomi = loon Adelina

      August 22, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      Naomi, who or what are you, you can't believe that stuff you are saying can you? The US (the West) is less than three hundred years old. Why should we support Israel, by your logic, we should be helping the Jews (which were all from Europe, mostly Eastern Europe) what does that have to do with the Country of Israel? As far as I know, Israel was not harmed or attached by any Western or European country so what does any Western or European country owe to Israel? How does supporting Israel help us?

      August 22, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Dave

      I would suggest that you keep your mouth shut until you know SOMETHING about what you're talking about.

      Sharpton came to euologize the kid that had been accidentally hit with a car, and made a comment about "diamond merchants in the neighborhood." If you're too stupid to understand how blatantly antisemitic that was, it would be a waste of time to explain it to you. Shut up, Eurotrash.

      August 22, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      Dave, Im not certain who you are talking to, I would admit Al is an opportunist, I don't think he is antisemitic anymore than he is a racist. He and Jesse and the lot are opportunist who will take advantage or any situation as long as they get camera time and money (although, Louis is both racist and antisemitic).

      But just to be clear, if some one is against diamond merchants they are antisemitic?

      August 22, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Naomi

      John, fun-ctio-ning Americans were all from Europe. It seems you don't know much about the world history as typical Americans don't. Listen, if US go-vern-ment supports Israel, there are reasons for it. If you don't like it, pass the high school level Social Studies exams and be a politician yourself.

      August 23, 2011 at 3:08 am |
    • lazy rake

      hitler killed the jews why do i as a palestinian have to suffer. they are occupiersand will be eradicated

      August 24, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  10. Naomi

    @Know-what, shup up and go back to your grade 6 literature class.

    August 22, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • Know What

      I'll give this post a few minutes to percolate, just in case this is a Naomi-imposter... but then, look out, punk!

      August 22, 2011 at 12:50 am |
    • Naomi

      @Know-what, this is the original Naomi writing. You need some literature skill in order to understand written texts.

      August 22, 2011 at 12:57 am |
    • Know What


      What on Earth are you talking about?... written texts???

      I will not endanger my high blood pressure in composing a repartee to your elegant, "shut-up". You should already know that it is juvenile and uncalled for.

      August 22, 2011 at 1:12 am |
    • Naomi

      @Know-what, you insulted 80-year-olds. American atheists need literacy education. They have no skill in reading into texts. It's obvious in their manner of quoting texts.

      August 22, 2011 at 1:18 am |
    • Know What

      "you insulted 80-year-olds"

      No, it was a mild razzing of the rigid, ill-tempered ones.

      August 22, 2011 at 2:18 am |
  11. Know What


    I am astonished at your young age. You keep referring to yourself as 'old' and 'elderly' - I thought you were a crotchety 80 year-old 🙂
    So, now we know that perhaps there is still a chance for you to see things as they really are.

    August 22, 2011 at 12:11 am |
  12. Naomi

    Secular Jews, why do you discourage Americans from reading the Old Testament Bible? It'll be only an disadvantage to you. Why don't you ban it like those evil atheists as you really wish? Stupid secular Americans love anything forbidden and then they'll start reading the Bible and get some wisdom, although their immorality level will make it very hard for any proper comprehension.

    August 21, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
  13. Naomi

    Jews, can't you help the West again in their financial turmoils? Invent something better this time. Or are you at the end of your wits as well? Trust in Jesus your Messiah. God has sent Him for you. We Gentiles got blessings through you, as usual. Only those who find Jesus truly love you, Jews. Think about it. Don't give hard time to the Messianic Jews.

    August 21, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • Dave

      Shut your mouth you human trash. You have no love of the Jews at all. You've been reading Revelations and you're looking to hasten the end times.

      August 22, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Naomi

      @Dave, I love Jews. Only Christians truly love the Jews. The Book of Daniel in OT says the same thing as Revelation.

      August 23, 2011 at 3:03 am |
    • Bizarre

      Naomi, "The Book of Daniel in OT says the same thing as Revelation."

      Don't you think that the lurid fantasy/sci-fi (or crazed, hallucinating) author of Revelation read (or heard about) the book of Daniel?

      August 23, 2011 at 3:11 am |
    • Naomi

      @Biz, the Book of Revelation has so much more than the Book of Daniel. That's the thing. It's like the same Author wrote the sequel.

      August 23, 2011 at 4:53 am |
  14. Kirk


    August 21, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  15. Slumberjack

    Tell that to the families pitching tents beneath overpasses because they've lost their jobs and homes. Yes, don't worry about the economy...don't worry about where the next meal is coming from to feed the kids....don't worry about dentistry, doctors and medicine when the kids suffer with no way to obtain treatment. Yes, don't worry about anything, because these proper Christians apparently have a VIP backstage pass to one of the greatest frauds in all human existence.

    August 21, 2011 at 8:25 am |
  16. Slumberjack

    The insidious nature of religion everywhere divides individuals and communities from one another, preventing entire nations from realizing their full potential. So much harm from a single seed of destruction calling people to value ignorance over knowledge, logic over irrationality, and delusion over reality.

    August 21, 2011 at 8:13 am |
  17. Naomi

    Americans, don't be sad about economy or fear about it. You lost only the money you didn't need in the first place. Christians created a nation where honesty and hard work with a little use of brain bring prosperity. (A little bit of good-looks help, too.) Read how the Puritans spent the first winter, be thankful and try harder.

    August 21, 2011 at 6:57 am |
    • Jesus is fiction and you're kinda slow

      Naomi- That's quite possibly the most stupid thing I've read on this site in a year or two, and THAT is saying quite a bit.

      August 21, 2011 at 8:49 am |
    • SecularTruther

      Talking to yourself or having a 1 sided telepathic communication with your imaginary friends isn't going to solve any problems. Ask Rick Perry how much rain dropped since he prayed to end the drought in Texas. Knowing him he would say it was a success because Texas got 2 days of rain, which barely touched much of Texas, wasn't 2 days in a row and has had no effect over the drought. Why don't the religious pray for world peace, ending abortion, ending hunger, ending homelessness, curing terrible diseases etc... Oh that's right they do, please say thank-you to your higher power for all the answered prayers.

      August 21, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Naomi

      The history-ignorant Americans have no hope. Please surrender your land, not just your money, to foreigners. You guys don't deserve America.

      August 21, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • LinCA


      Are you Faith, True Friend, Justina, Frederica, Friend, Adeline, Christian Adeline, Adelina, FairGarden, Odessa, Zelda and WonderSpring?

      August 21, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • Naomi

      @LinCA, yes, and I had more names. All of them got hijacked by evil atheists.

      August 21, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • Naomi

      Why do you guys stalk me? Doesn't North America have any freedom of speeches for the religious? What a stupid society you atheists created in a Christian continent! Secularists are tyrants. The filthiest ones at that.

      August 21, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Naomi (et al), you don't know America. Someone told you a lie about America and you believed it. The America of your fantasies is that lie. You have internet access. Why don't you research American history before you hate us for not living up to the lie you learned.

      August 21, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
    • LinCA


      You said "Why do you guys stalk me?"
      I don't stalk you. I just try keep track of who is who on this board. Your frequent name changes makes that somewhat difficult.

      You said "Doesn't North America have any freedom of speeches for the religious?"
      Yup, both the US and Canada have freedom of speech. You have the right to show how moronically stupid you are...

      "What a stupid society you atheists created in a Christian continent! Secularists are tyrants. The filthiest ones at that."
      ... and proving my point.

      August 21, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • Naomi

      @Tallulah13, I learned American history like all others. You must be a 13-year-old and have many schooling years left. @LinCA, no one hijacked your name because you are a fellow atheists to those hijackers. You can't even sing O Canada in full verses or recite the nation's founding vision; that's why you can't comprehend my point.

      August 21, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
    • Naomi

      Americans, Canadians and Australians should not struggle to understand their 100 ~ 200-year-old nations. Christians constructed their nations extremely well, but before those British colonies, there were Europe and ancient Israel. The British deserves better remembrance from these former colonists. No one thank Americans for rescuing the world because Americans don't remember where their wellness comes from.

      August 21, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Naomi, I don't stalk you. You comment more than any other person I see on these boards. It's difficult to avoid you. I don't enjoy any conversation with you, but I will not abide malicious lies about my country by someone who has no interest in the truth. I am almost 50 years old, all of those years in America. Exactly how long and in what year were you here? I suspect you were here a long time ago for a brief time, and were hosted by christians who hid the realities of christian discrimination and bigotry against people of color from you. Unless you are a child, you are far too old to still believe comforting lies. Use your internet connection and study history. Your vicious, ignorant and immature behavior are not becoming in an adult.

      August 21, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
    • Naomi

      Tallulah, I'm similar to your generation. Where's your weird name come from? I'd never imagined you to be American-born. You just personally don't like my message because I'm telling facts about America. You didn't learn history properly because you feed on junks in internet. READ BOOKS!! Please grow up.

      August 21, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
    • Naomi

      Tallulah, you've never observed other nations, have you? Britain and America are the only nations on earth who willingly ended slavery and racism without the foreign interferances only because both were Christian. All others continue/d those on top of abuse of women and children until the Christian West halted it all forcibly. Get a life, please.

      August 21, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Naomi, I tell you to use the internet because I have no idea what books you have available. As far as I can tell from your rants, the only book you possess is your bible. I never as-sume anyone has as many books as I have, because I have been collecting books and reading since my sisters taught me to read when I was five. History fascinates me, so I read a lot of that. I suggest you read "Founding Mothers" by Cokie Roberts. It's a fascinating account of the creation of the United States through the eyes of the wives of the Founding Fathers. You'd like these women. They're a lot more religious than their husbands.

      I think it's strange that you think my name funny, considering you change your own every five minutes. If you really want to know, I had a cat named Tallulah for 18 years. She was a wonderful friend who was always there for me, from my teenage years until my middle age. She was a great comfort to me when my mother died. I honor her by keeping her memory alive with my screen name.

      August 22, 2011 at 12:01 am |
    • Know What

      Guess who these Christians fought against to outlaw slavery?... other Christians.

      There were as many Christians FOR slavery as there were against it.

      August 22, 2011 at 12:03 am |
    • tallulah13

      Oh, Naomi, or whatever your name is, I give up. Go ahead, continue spewing your malicious lies. Revel in your ignorance. Spread the hate and make life more difficult for those christians who actually follow the words of Christ.

      You only make yourself look bad. If your god does indeed exist, you only condemn yourself in his eyes by bearing false witness.

      August 22, 2011 at 12:07 am |
    • Naomi

      @Tallulah, thank you for sharing about your cat. I think I'll like you now more. Until today, the only post I read from you were ignorant rants of some stupid, brainwashed anti-Christian Western teenagers. I'm glad I was wrong in assuming your age. Tellulah, read a lot of textbooks. Textbooks are great, along with the Bible. Then go on side-reading. Don't lose a bigger picture by keeping the textbook knowledge. Atheists hate truth and facts. I'm not surprised if you don't like Christian comments.
      @Know-what: Slavery and abuse of women were common and norm in ALL pagan world until Christian missionaries made fuss about it. We pagans didn't know slavery/racism or treating women and children like property was wrong. We lost wars and the Christian West made us civil.

      August 22, 2011 at 12:20 am |
    • Naomi

      Tallulah, what lies are you talking about? If the American Founding Fathers were not Christian, where did they get their deism? Trace the origin and read what each great Americans said or wrote. You never read the Bible so you'll never find where they got all their noble ideals. To us former pagans, Americans and British were Christian, nothing else. When they were burning children in the pre-christian Europen forests, they resemble us more. You Westerners are far worse barbarians before you converted to Christianity.

      August 22, 2011 at 12:28 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.