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. jane

    Every lynch mob has its excuses, only when blacks lynch do we have to hear all the lame excuses. The leasons of history have been lost on blacks apparently

    August 20, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Naomi

      I guess too many blacks were lynched by the whites before. This negative black-white relationship looks like one big pain in the American history. But such things exist in every nation. We are all victims and offenders at the same time. I think we need to stop blaming others and look at facts as they are. All humans are sinful.

      August 21, 2011 at 2:44 am |
  2. @Fred

    All you need is reading the Bible and the honest, genuine, authentic study in any field of knowledge. You'll discover the Evangelicals have been right all along. Premature study will make you a prey to lying activists.

    August 20, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • @Fred

      The first @Fred is a fake @Fred, who is not a Fred either.

      August 20, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Fret

      Since you took my name I am not going to Fret about. Besides the real fred knows truth so next time you a Fred trying to make the real fred look bad just dont fret about it be glad you can recognize truth

      August 20, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • Fret

      I just noticed there are no freds in the Bible but there is a lot of fret. If nothing else I am more popular than you fake Freds

      August 20, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • Larry the Lobster

      There is a lot of god being very angry and vindictive in the Babble, but he almost never laughs.

      August 20, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Fret

      ho ho ho .................Larry, I am looking forward to grilled lobster tonight

      August 20, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • Larry the Lobster

      That's what God would have done, too. If he actually existed.

      August 20, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • @Fret

      Eating lobster is not good for the planet... Mankind should stop co-n-su-ming seafood for a while... Poor oceans...

      August 20, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • @Larry

      American comedy is not funny, just stupid.

      August 20, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Larry the Lobster

      Eating anything is not good for the planet, Justina. Poor planet. You should stop eating and give the planet a rest.

      August 20, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • @Larry

      Larry, the ocean is suffering because of mankind. Look what you are doing while joking about God. Secular Americans are stupid.

      August 20, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Larry the Lobster

      Everything is suffering because of mankind. There's too many people on the planet. God was wrong about that "go forth and procreate" thing, wasn't he?

      August 20, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • @ss Fumes Faith

      It's not God's fault that he he told humans to precreate and they did.

      August 20, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • Faith

      No, it's American's fault you overused the Earth's resourses and invented stupid things such as nukes. Over-population was never a problem but the luxury lifestyle is. Stop eating too much.

      August 20, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      I think you missed the part about ethnic cleansing and the killing of babies.

      August 21, 2011 at 5:42 am |
    • Naomi

      @SCAtheist: God only ordered wiping out the child-killing perverts, no one else. They were destroyed in the Noah's time fashion, so other innocent tribes and innocent future generations would be protected. It's pagans and atheists who kill human babies(abortion).

      August 21, 2011 at 5:56 am |
  3. Faith

    Why do people find me repellant? I just don't understand.

    August 20, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • Faith

      The above Faith is a fake.

      August 20, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • Faith

      Both the above Faiths are fake

      August 20, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • fred

      It is hard to find real genuine Faith these days

      August 20, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • Faith is Delusion

      That's because faith is fake, fred. As a religious definition, faith only applies to that which is totally unprovable and therefore extremely unlikely. Faith requires imagination and the denial of reality in service of that imagination. Faith is, therefore, fake.

      August 20, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • @Fred

      I'm sad I can't keep any name. Take it as a brain exercise. Atheists do this kind of deception all the time in my region.

      August 20, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Faith is here

      Wow, I guess I'm really being hated by the American atheists for telling the truth. Atheists can never hide their evil.

      August 20, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • Give us a new name, Faith! How about "HappyMeal"?

      We don't hate you, Faithy! You are great comedy! You are the perfect rebut to your own posts! You do hilarious things like change your name but then rant in an unmistakable way. You are wild and ridculous, and absolutely nobody is going to convert to Christianity because of your electric insanity.

      You're just too much fun!

      August 20, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • The Reason

      I don't write to convert anyone. It takes God's miracle for American atheists to have a slightest wisdom. Are you hijacking my name or are you just finding the situation funny? In any case, you are proving you have no normal conscience. All you can do is mocking, atheists.

      August 20, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Give us a new name, Faith! How about "HappyMeal"?

      No, no, no. HappyMeal won't work as she's obviously more than a couple of fries short.

      August 20, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  4. Faith

    Jews, take heart. Liberation and deliverance awaits you. Read the Gospels and trust in Jesus of Nazareth your divine Messiah who came to you. He was with you before once, and He is returning as your King. Throughout the history, Jesus is the only One who fulfilled all the prophesies in your Bible. The human history and your history had rich meaning. God has come for you; trust in Jesus as you should.

    August 20, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  5. jt

    @The Lambly Winged Lion of The Gods Does Roar

    Just a general observation: punctuation helps. If you are going to attempt to wax poetic, then use words and statements that YOU understand. Abstract ideas are great if they fit the discussion and make sense to your audience; of course, you aren't concerned about that.

    August 20, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • The Lame Wigged-Out Lying Of The God-Babblers Does Bore

      He poeticalizes not, he simplifically flingeth words in nonsensicalization and plentiforousness, one hand one the keyboard, the other on his teeny weeny tinky winky, being a wanker and a fop.

      August 20, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  6. bigwilliestyles

    All my life I have wondered why Blacks and Jews don't have better relations. Both have been persecuted, beaten and murdered historically, though jews have made better progress materially (sometimes at the expense of blacks). You would think they would be closer.

    August 20, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • Faith

      Blacks or browns and yellows don't get along either. And the whites get blames all the time. A very strange planet.

      August 20, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • Faith

      If every race blames itself – especially the lazy and incompotent ones – the problem is 80% solved. We have a lot to learn from the Jews. The Jews don't blame others but just sharpen themselves though they are not good-hearted like Christians.

      August 20, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  7. Michael Carrington

    God must love stupid people as he ceated so many..........

    August 20, 2011 at 4:09 am |
    • Faith

      It's vital for every human to admit that he is stupid, repent of his sins, ask for forgiveness and trust in Jesus for salvation.

      August 20, 2011 at 8:09 am |
    • The Lambly Winged Lion of The Gods Does Roar

      Faith did a pundent stating, "It's vital for every human to admit that he is stupid, repent of his sins, ask for forgiveness and trust in Jesus for salvation."

      I see you put your view in the venacular of manliness saying "he is stupid " and "his sins", Whatever came to mind of women's stupidities and women's sinfulness? What a Lilith you are!

      August 20, 2011 at 8:30 am |
    • Faith

      The pronoun includes everyone, both male and female. I'm not a feminist.

      August 20, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • Wile E. Coyote

      Isn't it wonderful that Faith and Lamb Lion zipped in and proved Michaels point perfectly?

      August 20, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  8. Faith

    The Jews need Jesus. Jesus saves them form all dangers ultimately and give them eternal life. Jesus is their Messiah.

    August 20, 2011 at 1:03 am |
    • Larry King

      Jesus forgot to save them from the guys with "Gott Mit Uns" written on their belt buckles. But hey, Jesus must have wanted 5.6 million Jews exterminated, because he easily could have stopped it and didn't.

      Unless he wasn't a god, but just another religious loon like David Koresh or Joseph Smith.

      August 20, 2011 at 1:47 am |
    • Faith

      Only the Divine Jesus fulfilled the prophesies in the Jewish Bible, no other humans. Far more number of Russians, Chinese, and Germans than the Jews died and and a lot of Poles and Ja-panese died as well. In WW2, most nations suffered alongside with the Jews though not singled out like the Jews were. 70 million casuality. God judges every human ultimately. We all have so much time to live on earth. The Jews will be all saved at Jesus' Second Coming.

      August 20, 2011 at 8:07 am |
    • The Lambly Winged Lion of The Gods Does Roar

      Faith,,,,,,,,,,,, Did not Christ Jesus truly say, "This world is not of my kingdom for if it were,,,,,,,,"? Why must those of Christendom try ever so vainly to bemoan themselves with such flagrancies of fluctuations not worthy of anything in leu of NOT 1stly seeking the Kingdom of God as is so written for the Sakes of Christ Jesus and His Truths? Quit your blemishing tactics and get with the program and tell about where you really do think the Kingdom of God truly is! 🙂

      August 20, 2011 at 8:25 am |
    • Faith

      Lambly, America flourished because of Christianity. Americans need to be reminded of their correct history before they come to believe the Chinese are their masters. The people of short history don't have much durability.

      August 20, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • Harry Hippobottomus

      "to bemoan themselves with such flagrancies of fluctuations" – what flailing mental masturbation! What a perfect example of how to be an idiot who thinks he is a genius.

      August 20, 2011 at 11:18 am |
  9. why I don't like Jews

    I try not to be anti-semitic, but I have never met a jew that I liked. The first jew I ever knew, and I hardly knew him, was a student at a high school I attended. He first came to the school in mid-term, he was flocked by both girls and boys. They liked him because he was good looking and intellegent. But his popularity soon wore off and I noticed that more and more he was shunned. So I asked a girl what had happened Her reply, "He's so arrogant–I can't stand him!" As time went on and I met more and more Jews, I not only found them to be arrogant, but very sarcastic believing they were funny. I heard one Jew brag, "If you want to be successful, you have to squash[put down, critizise, make fun of, intimidate]the guy below you and lick the boots of the guy ahead of you." Right then is when I knew why I didn't like Jews. Jewa are generous, because of their ego, 'if I have to help you, it's because I'm better than you.'

    August 20, 2011 at 1:03 am |
    • John Richardson

      I've had lots of Jewish friends. Good people.

      August 20, 2011 at 3:16 am |
    • Peace2All

      @why I don't like Jews

      Yeah... I'm with my friend -John R., here. I've known a number of Jews, and have actually found (at least the ones I know) to be kind, considerate, family oriented, etc... people.

      I guess we've had different experiences.


      August 20, 2011 at 3:25 am |
  10. Faith

    I think Americans are too race-sensitive. It's a miracle that USA is still hanging on as a single nation. The wonder and excellence of the American system that the wisest Bible-reading Christians created. Hatred based on race is stupid. In all the human world, neighbors hate each other. It's not just my race that endured injustice and pain but every race. I hope Americans are learning the world history not just US history.

    August 20, 2011 at 12:59 am |
    • J.W

      what race are you?

      August 20, 2011 at 1:05 am |
    • Faith

      Asian. a yellow.

      August 20, 2011 at 1:19 am |
  11. ??????????'

    @jimmy hudson: And Jews wonder why they are persecuted!

    August 19, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
  12. Jimmy Hudson

    In Crown Heights jews have their own special ambulance service that caters to jews and jews ONLY ! and that is " O.K." Recently when the young jewish boy was kidnapped and butchered it was revealed that in that area jews are allowed to have their very own "police force" and that is "O.K." Every hard working, law-abiding, tax-paying legal citizen in this country needs to take a VERY SERIOUS LOOK at jews in the USA and how they manage to to have their own police, ambualnce service, ect. What is going on here ??? Examine how jews who comprise less than 2 % of the total US population own almost every single T.V. and cable network, almost every major newspaper, almost every major book publisher. Jews completely dominate the Hollywood movie industry and jews own almost every major music recording label. Further, check out Wall Street, major trading houses ( Goldman-Sachs, Standard & Poor, ect.) Finally, REALLY EXAMINE AIPAC ( American Israeli Political Action Comm.) and the politicians of BOTH parties that they CONTROL !!!! Wake up people !! Wake up it is almost too late.

    August 19, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
    • Larry King

      Jawohl! Ve see eye to eye, Herr Hudson!

      August 20, 2011 at 1:55 am |
  13. Yoann

    To Jews everything is ant Semitic

    August 19, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
    • Dinsdale

      I did not know that Jews were so interested in ants.

      August 19, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
  14. David Johnson

    Just goes to prove, there are very few rights, privileges or honors associated with being one of god's chosen people.

    Maybe we should rethink this whole Almighty God thing...


    August 19, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
    • Faith

      God punishes every nation that does evil to Israel. Americans are no exception.

      August 20, 2011 at 1:01 am |
    • Marsha

      Jews are not Gods' choose people. Review history on how they stole Hebrew from the originals and called it Judaism. See a book called the 13th Tribe.

      Jews are arrogant but have inherited lies.

      Revelations 2:9

      August 20, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Faith

      Revelation 2:9 does not apply to all Jews. Far from it.

      August 20, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • Marsha

      Then who does it apply to? That's what cut & paste Christians do. Not sure of your religious preference but scriptures applies to all souls. Yes they are FAKE Hebrews.

      August 20, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • @Marsha

      It's apostates of even Judaism. Read Romans 2:28, 29.

      August 20, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • Marsha

      Furthermore more the people in Israel does not belong there. The Most High has not given the land back to the Hebrews yet. Please know your history. So sick of Christians and there nonsense. Please read, read, read!

      August 20, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • Marsha

      the people in Israel does not belong there. The Most High has not given the land back to the Hebrews yet. Please know your history. So sick of Christians and there nonsense. Please read, read, read!

      August 20, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • @Marsha

      ? The Hebrews got their nation, Israel. The border will be made proper when Jesus returns for them.

      August 20, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Marsha

      Please know history! Again another cut and past person. The fake Hebrews are from Poland, Russia etc. Israel is not their land. I would suggest all brainwashed Christians start reading the Bible starting from the old testament.

      August 20, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Larry the Lobster

      Marsha, the way to deprogram brainwashed Christians is NOT to have them read the Babble again!

      August 20, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • @Marsha

      Only God knows real Israelites. The Jews are Jewish through their mothers. The Jewish co-n-verts can be co-nsi-dered as Jewish. They are not like Americans. The Jews know how to keep id-en-ti-ty and tra-dition properly with good memories.

      August 20, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
  15. CryMeaRiver


    August 19, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
  16. jane

    Yankel Rosenbaum=Emmet Till

    August 19, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  17. jane

    It was a hate crime. Just like the hate crimes committed against Asians by blacks on both coasts it is referred to as "disputes between communties. When whites do it to blacks it is called "hate crime". If the Crown Heights and LA riots had been directed towards Muslims in retailiation for 9-11 it would be called a "hate crime". But blacks did it against Asians and use a bunch of slights as an excuse. Blacks did it against Jews and used one car accident as an excuse. And that gets a free pass?

    August 19, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  18. Biggus Schmuckus

    They have to redge up stuff from 20-years ago so they can play the victim? How about something more current, like the intentional carpet-bombing of civilians in Lebanon?

    Religions just love to babble on about how persecuted they are.

    August 19, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  19. The Lambly Winged Lion of The Gods Does Roar

    The Reverend Al Sharpton is a man who has within his debutaunts many writers and spellers willing to be as written frontmen and only in the limelights of publicity should we as perveyors of watchmen-like folks; ever be mindful of any ill-mannered doings.

    August 19, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
  20. *frank*

    Sharpton is scum.

    August 19, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • The Lambly Winged Lion of The Gods Does Roar

      Bgotry does espouse your cunninglessness Frankfarter, have a lewed and lie-sivious day!

      August 19, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
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About this blog

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.