Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the Crown Heights riot, which erupted after a 7-year-old black boy, Gavin Cato, was killed by a Hasidic driver and, three hours later, a 29-year-old Australian Orthodox Jewish scholar, Yankel Rosenbaum, was fatally stabbed. A Long Island rabbi invited a number of figures to speak at a panel this weekend, but one invitee—the Reverend Al Sharpton—has various Jewish groups, as well as Rosenbaum's relatives, up in arms.
"It's just an absolute disgrace," said Norman Rosenbaum, the brother of Yankel Rosenbaum, to the Post, adding that Sharpton's "vile rhetoric incited the rioting." The Post reminds, "Sharpton was criticized at the time for saying, in a eulogy for Gavin, that he wasn't killed by a car accident but by 'the social accident of apartheid.' He led 400 protesters, chanting 'No justice, no peace' despite pleas by then-Mayor David Dinkins for calm." But Rabbi Marc Schneier insisted, "It's an opportunity to have a frank and open exchange, and to clear the air. It is not a discussion about Crown Heights [in 1991]. It's about the state of black and Jewish relations 20 years later," adding, "So the discussion will involve Rev. Sharpton’s connection with the Jewish community today."
Assemblyman Dov Hikind said of Sharpton, "This is not a person who has brought people together. This is a guy who was divisive, racist and has never addressed the issue. He is the last person who should be at this forum.” For his part, Sharpton might skip the whole thing, telling the Daily News, "I may or may not go. I refuse to play into their extremism. If it is not an event that will heal, it is not an event that I will partake in."