By COLlive reporter
A national conference organized by the Reform Jewish movement, claiming to promote “meaningful social justice work” and “repairing the world,” has apparently left integrity and the battle against anti-Semitism on the sidelines.
Members of the Jewish community in Crown Heights are expressing shock and anger at the news that Al Sharpton was a featured speaker at the “Consultation on Conscience” convention in Washington, DC, on Monday.
Over a month ago, the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council wrote a letter to the organizers of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism asking them to rescind their invitation to Sharpton because of his role in inciting violence in Crown Heights, COLlive.com has learned.
During the violent “Crown Heights Riots” against Jews in 1991, Sharpton led a march in which participants carried antisemitic signs and burned an Israeli flag, the Forward reported. Speaking at a funeral at that time, Sharpton was present when a banner displayed read “Hitler did not do the job.” In his remarks, he referred to “diamond dealers” (a Jewish business).
Reform leaders did not heed the request, and today, in a speech at their Conference, Sharpton only hinted at his notorious history with Crown Heights violence, giving a vague suggestion that “mistakes were made in the past.” Sharpton, as in prior speeches, did not refer directly to his role in inciting violence in Crown Heights nor did he apologize for his actions.
On the first day of the riots, August 20, 1991, a group of approximately 20 young black men surrounded 29-year-old Yankel Rosenbaum who was visiting from Melbourne. They stabbed him several times in the back and beat him severely, fracturing his skull. Rosenbaum died later that night.
Media reports said that during the riots, 152 police officers and 38 civilians were injured, 27 vehicles were destroyed, 7 stores were looted or burned, and 225 cases of robbery and burglary were committed. Property damage was estimated at one million dollars.
“Today’s speech was a whitewash,” Rabbi Eli Cohen, Executive Director of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council told COLlive.com. “Judaism recognizes Repentance and forgiveness, but Sharpton has never demonstrated that he truly regrets what he did and wants to make amends.”
In last month’s letter, Cohen noted that “Never has Al Sharpton apologized to the Jewish community of Crown Heights. Never has he shown any public contrition for the violence he inflicted on our community. Even 27 years later, Sharpton shows no remorse and takes no responsibility for the violent results of his words that left Jewish residents of Crown Heights injured, many afraid to leave their homes, and a trail of property damage and mayhem that terrorized an entire community.”
In an op-ed published on Monday in the Washington Examiner, Rosenbaum’s brother Norman Rosenbaum called Sharpton’s invitation to the Reform convention “a disgraceful decision.”
“We remember Al Sharpton for what he did in 1991,” he wrote. It was in August of that year that he led violent, murderous anti-Semitic rioters on a pogrom in Crown Heights. They terrorized that Jewish community for nearly four days, during which 183 people were injured and the innocent visiting Australian University academic Yankel Rosenbaum — brother to one of us — was murdered in cold blood amid cries of “Kill the Jew! Kill the Jew!”.”
Jews in Crown Heights have recently been the victims of a string of verbal and physical attacks committed mostly by African-Americans. “It is astonishing in time of rising anti-semitism that a Jewish group would host a person like Sharpton,” Cohen told COLlive.com.
I am here at the Consultation on Conscience in DC. I am welcomed by Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Director @TheRAC and Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of Union for Reform Judaism. #RAC19 pic.twitter.com/Wsl8RpLzqE
— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) May 20, 2019