NEW YORK (Oct. 14)
Fifty-five days after Yankel Rosenbaum was murdered in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn by a crowd of angry blacks, leaders from the Jewish, black, Hispanic and Asian community stood together to condemn the recent surge in anti-Semitic incidents in New York and around the world.
They addressed thousands of people, nearly all of them Jews, who turned out under sunny autumn skies Sunday to publicly register their concern about the anti-Semitic violence and rhetoric which has been experienced over the past two months by Jews around the world, from New York to Warsaw.
“We are here to recognize and to be assured that we are not alone,” declared Kenneth Bialkin, president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, which organized the rally.
“We stand here with leaders from other communities. They have been with us in our times of need in the past; they stand with us today,” Bialkin said. “We are united in our abhorrence of anti-Semitism and all other forms of racism and prejudice.
“In a sense, the world has become so used to the presence of anti-Semitism that our reactions have become almost passive,” he said. “That tolerance must end, and end now!”
Charles Wang, president of the China Institute and a vice chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, pledged to “work with you to be sure anti-Semitism is wiped out from our city and every corner of our country.”
Christopher Jung, a spokesperson for the Korean Association of New York, said, “We must make sure that a few hate-mongers have no place in our society.”
And Dennis Walcott, president of the New York Urban League, who had most of his brief remarks drowned out by a half-dozen shouting members of a militant group called Kahane Chai, noted that “racism and anti-Semitism are permeating our city.”
JCRC STAFFER PUNCHED IN FACE
The Kahane Chai protesters, standing directly in front of the dais, interrupted nearly every speaker with shouts accusing them of “ignoring Crown Heights” and being “false leaders doing nothing against anti-Semitism.”
Kahane Chai is an outgrowth of Kach, the movement founded and headed by the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was assassinated in New York last November.
The group’s demonstration within the demonstration turned violent at one point, with scuffles breaking out between the Kahane Chai members and other rally participants who began yelling back at them to be quiet.
When David Pollack, assistant executive director of the JCRC, made his way through the crowd to tell the Kahane Chai demonstrators to stop disrupting the speakers or leave, one punched him in the face, he said.
Luis Miranda, president of New York’s Hispanic Federation, admonished the Kahane Chai protesters, saying, “I am very disappointed. We’ve admired your ability to act as a group in the past where there’s a common enemy,” he said. “Today you must do that as well.”
Some in the crowd of demonstrators wondered why Mayor David Dinkins was not on the dais. Organizers said the mayor had a scheduling conflict and that he did send a representative.
“Dinkins is conspicuously absent,” said a rally participant named Beverly, who refused to give her last name. She said she was displeased that the demonstrators were nearly all Jews. The crowd “doesn’t have the rainbow coalition that the civil rights marches did,” she observed.
David Zelmanovic, who attended the rally with 50 neighbors from Monsey, N.Y., said that “the turnout was disappointing, considering that anti-Semitism affects every Jew everywhere. I was disappointed, but not surprised, not to see non-Jews there.”
Michael Miller, executive director of the JCRC, said he was pleased with the turnout at the rally, which police estimated at 5,000, but organizers put at between 10,000 and 12,000.
But “should there be additional outbreaks, or should the anti-Semitism even persist, we will mount an even larger demonstration,” he vowed.
Other speakers at the rally included Rabbi Shmuel Butman, president of the Lubavitch Youth Organization; Lenny Sensenowitz, president of City College Students for Israel; and former New York Mayor Ed Koch, who got more applause than anyone else.
The rally began at Union Square, the site of a 1933 rally by the Workmen’s Circle and various trade unions to protest the rise of Nazism in Germany.
Demonstrators walked several blocks to Madison Square Park, near the state Appellate Division Courthouse, in front of which is a monument to the Holocaust.