JERUSALEM (Jul. 7)
Visiting New York Mayor David Dinkins, dogged here by the ongoing controversy over the 1991 Crown Heights riots, literally stopped traffic Wednesday when he and a delegation from the Big Apple unveiled a new street sign bearing the name “New York Place.”
The dedication near the Foreign Ministry, which received an unusually large amount of media coverage, drew many former New Yorkers and included about 20 demonstrators carrying placards that read “Crown Heights Place.”
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek shared the podium with Dinkins as the Police Corps Band played “The Star Spangled Banner” and then “Hatikvah,” the U.S. and Israeli national anthems.
Peres, just back from peace talks in Egypt, told Dinkins, “Outside of Israel, I believe that New York is the closest thing to our home. Mayor, we welcome you as a guest and as a friend.”
Dinkins, who visited Tel Aviv amid the onslaught of Iraqi Scud missiles during the Persian Gulf War, has received hospitality from the highest echelons of Israel’s government. Addressing the crowd, he said, “New York and Jerusalem share an important bond. The dedication of New York Place will span continents.”
Members of his delegation, which included politicians, clergy and business people, expressed hope that the mayor’s visit would not only foster good will and trade between Jerusalem and New York, but would bridge a gap between Jews and blacks back home.
Writer Letty Cottin Pogrebin, chair of Americans for Peace Now, said she came on the mission “because I really wanted to support the mayor. He has always been a friend of Israel and a healing force in black-Jewish relations.”
Not everyone in the crowd was as enthusiastic, however.
Dinkins has been the target of continuing harsh criticism for not acting forcefully enough during the black riots against Jews in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn two years ago, in which Australian Jewish scholar Yankel Rosenbaum was murdered.
Among the demonstrators carrying signs referring to Crown Heights was activist Rabbi Avi Weiss of the Bronx, whose angry “open letter” to Dinkins was published Tuesday in The Jerusalem Post.
Weiss, who leads an organization called the Coalition of Jewish Concerns — Amcha, said, “We applaud the mayor’s visit, but he is here to politic for votes in the hope that our community will forget Crown Heights,” said Weiss, in reference to Dinkins’ candidacy for re-election in November.
“For me, personally, it would be unconscionable to be in Israel and to dedicate New York Place without reminding everyone that it was under his tenure that the Crown Heights pogrom occurred,” said Weiss.
With much of the New York press corps here in Israel covering the four-day visit, few people were likely to forget.