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September 06, 1991 - Image 36

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-09-06

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1 E W

A Modern-Day Pogrom In Brooklyn

ensions between blacks
and Jews have been
discussed and debated for
years across the country,
but a worst-case scenario
erupted in the Crown Heights
section of Brooklyn in late
summer. The issue was not
affirmative action or quotas or
Israeli trade with South Africa; it
was alienation and despair and
raw anti-Semitism. And when the
bloodshed and carnage was over, at
least temporarily, one was left with
the frightening vision of two
communities, each feeling
victimized by the other, with the
difference being the acting out of
violent hatred of Jews and whites
by black youths against Lubavitch
The incident that precipitated
two nights of rioting was eerily
reminiscent of Tom Wolfe's novel,
Bonfire Of The Vanities, in which a
car accident resulting in the death


of a young black at the hands of a
white driver in a black
neighborhood spirals into a city-
wide racial upheaval, feuled by the
anti-white rhetoric of a media=
savvy black minister.
In this case, a car driven by a
young Lubavitcher Chasid went
out of control, striking two black
youngsters and killing one.
Rumors, which proved to be false,
quickly spread through Crown
Heights, which is 90 percent black,
that a private Jewish ambulance
chose to attend to the Chasidic
driver, who was being beaten by a
crowd at the scene, rather than
attend to the stricken black
These rumors were an outgrowth
of a pervasive sense among many
blacks in the neighborhood that
Chasidic Jews receive preferential
treatment from the police and
politicians. The area is the world
headquarters of the Lubavitch

movement and home of its revered
leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel
Schneerson, and approximately
20,000 of his followers.
Within hours of the traffic
fatality, the angry mood of the
black community turned to rage,
as gangs of young men took to the
streets, throwing rocks, torching
cars and seeking revenge. One
group turned on a 29-year-old
Chasidic rabbinical student,
visiting from Australia, and he was
stabbed to death.
Lubavitchers characterized the
carnage as a pogrom, a deliberate
effort to spill Jewish blood. It was
not until some 3,000 police officers
were brought to the neighborhood
that a semblance of order was
restored after unsuccessful efforts
by Mayor David Dinkins to ease
the tension.
Around the country, there was
speculation as to whether such
violence could occur in countless

other communities where blacks
and Jews live in close proximity.
Some local leaders distanced
themselves from the Crown
Heights . violence, pointing out that
the factors involved were unique to
that neighborhood and to New
York: large numbers of unemployed
and embittered young black men; a
tight-knit and insular Chasidic
community; irresponsible black
spokesmen eager to fan the flames
of anti-white feelings, etc.
But others worried that such
violence could happen anywhere,
that dialogue between black and
Jewish leaders did not extend to
the city streets, the flashpoints of
The Crown Heights violence was
a tragic reminder that mistrust
and hostility cannot simmer
indefinitely and that ignoring
signs of conflict between blacks
and Jews will not make them go

Tension between blacks and Jews in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn erupted into New York's worst outbreak of racial violence in many years.



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