Attorney General Holds Meeting with Crown Heights Victim’s Brother
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Attorney General Holds Meeting with Crown Heights Victim’s Brother

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As Jews and others in New York City await a decision on whether the Justice Department will investigate the 1991 Crown Heights rioting, Attorney General Janet Reno met here this week with the brother of a Lubavitch scholar killed in the riots.

Norman Rosenbaum, whose brother Yankel was slain in 1991, emerged unsatisfied from Thursday’s meeting with Reno and Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell.

Rosenbaum called the meeting “bland and non-committal,” according to a statement released by the office of Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.).

Isaac Abraham, who works as a public relations representative for Rosenbaum, said in an interview that Rosenbaum did not get a sense of what Reno planned to do regarding any possible federal investigation of the rioting.

Franklyn Snitow, the attorney for the estate of Rosenbaum’s brother, said in an interview that Rosenbaum said at the meeting that he would like to see the Justice Department take an aggressive position regarding the Crown Heights issue.

Reno then asked Rosenbaum to send her information, and Rosenbaum responded that he had already sent information to the Justice Department and other authorities, Snitow said.

D’Amato, who has been deeply involved in the Crown Heights issue, joined Rosenbaum for a news conference after the meeting.

Rosenbaum said at the news conference that he “walked away from the meeting with no real indication of the direction of any investigation,” according to the statement from D’Amato’s office.

D’Amato called on the Justice Department to name a special prosecutor to investigate the murder of Yankel Rosenbaum.

“Obviously the Justice Department is either unwilling or unable to investigate the case property,” D’Amato said in the statement.

“We cannot allow the Justice Department to continue and wait for time to march by and hope this problem will go away.” he said. “It won’t.”


The 1991 riots between Jews and African Americans rocked the Brooklyn neighborhood and have been a reference point for relations between the two groups ever since.

In early September, Reno was expected to announce she would not pursue a federal investigation of the riots, but she postponed a decision at the urging of Rep. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes.

Schumer and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), along with many Jewish groups, have been among those calling for a federal investigation.

And in late September, the Senate voted unanimously to urge a Justice Department investigation of the riots.

Abraham said Rosenbaum had met Tuesday with Senate co-sponsors of the resolution calling for the federal investigation.

Along with D’Amato, several senators wrote to Reno urging her to meet with Rosenbaum with in 48 hours, which she did, Abraham said.

Those senators were Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.); George Mitchell (D-Maine), the majority leader; and Robert Dole (R-Kan.), the minority leader.

Abraham called the meeting “a very political move” on the part of Reno and the Justice Department.

He said the meeting lasted about 20 to 25 minutes.

The Justice Department said that the meeting was closed and that only the three participants had been present.

Rosenbaum’s brother was killed Aug. 19, 1991 in rioting that broke out after a 7-year-old black boy, Gavin Cato, was killed by a car driven by a Chasidic driver.

Yankel Rosenbaum, who had been visiting New York from Melbourne, Australia, to do research, was surrounded by a group of black teenagers, some of whom were yelling, “Kill the Jew.”

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