NEW YORK (Nov. 12)
In remarks to several thousand Jewish federation leaders gathered here for the Council of Jewish Federations General Assembly, New York City Mayor David Dinkins asked for their help in repairing the rift between blacks and Jews.
In his welcoming statement to the delegates, Dinkins said he needed their aid “in healing the wounds that have opened up between our communities, because many more things bind us together than keep us apart.”
He announced that Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel has agreed to spearhead a citywide campaign against anti-Semitism and hatred.
The rift between the Dinkins administration and parts of the Jewish community has widened considerably in New York since the acquittal last month of the only person thus far charged in the August 1991 murder of Hasidic scholar Yankel Rosenbaum in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn.
Dinkins offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of Rosenbaum’s murderer, after the verdict was handed down Oct. 29, but did not go to Crown Heights to address the angry Jewish community, as many there hoped he would.
At the G.A. on Wednesday, the mayor promised that newly installed New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and he “are completely committed to finding the people who took part in the lynching of Rosenbaum.”
But many in Crown Heights, as well as Jewish activists like Rabbi Avi Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, blame Dinkins for ordering police to hold back during the rioting in 1991, a charge Dinkins has consistently denied.
According to Weiss, Dinkins or another city official ordered police restraint during the rioting, and if he himself did not issue the orders, says Weiss, then the mayor has a responsibility to find out who did.
Police officials and Dinkins have said that police were simply caught unprepared by the outbreak of rioting by blacks in Crown Heights, which began after the driver of a car in the Lubavitcher rebbe’s entourage accidentally hit two black children playing on the sidewalk, killing one and injuring the other.
The New York Board of Rabbis joined the African-American Clergy Council on Nov. 4 and commended the mayor for his efforts.
Dinkins, however, seems frustrated by the fact that Jewish leaders in Crown Heights, and Weiss, continue to point to him as being responsible for what has happened in the Crown Heights case.
In his address to federation leaders, Dinkins asked for an end to what he called “overheated language,” apparently referring to recent statements by Weiss and some Lubavitch leaders.
On Sunday, Weiss led about 300 demonstrators in a mock funeral in front of the mayor’s residence.
“I know that the overheated language of the last few days can only divide our city further — and that it must give way to goodwill and understanding if we are to get beyond the terrible events in Crown Heights last year,” Dinkins told the CJF plenary.
The mayor added that “no member of the African-American community has spoken out more forcefully and consistently against anti-Semitism than I — even when my own life was threatened for doing so, several years back, by a community leader who made anti-Semitic remarks.
“But so far, despite the best efforts of the best police department in the world, for the family of Yankel Rosenbaum and his community, there has been no justice. And the verdict rendered a week and a half ago by a Brooklyn jury only plunged them more deeply into grief and sharpened their pain.
“As a father and grandfather, as a son and a brother, I have some sense of the pain they feel — and I can hardly blame them for lashing out at any target in sight — even if that target is me.”