QUESTION: Why was Al Sharpton, inciter of 4 days of some of the city’s worst violence and riots against Jews in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, invited to speak at a Jewish conference in Washington?
Mosaic Magazine The Religious Action Center—the advocacy and activism arm of American Reform Judaism—has on its roster of speakers the “civil-rights leader” Al Sharpton. An anti-Semitic demagogue, Sharpton has twice incited his followers to violence against Jews—in the 1991 Crown Heights, Brooklyn riots and the 1995 attack on Freddie’s Fashion Mart—leading to a combined figure of nine deaths. Yet he was a frequent guest at the Obama White House and now has his own political talk show.
In August 1991 [Sharpton] helped incite a three-day race riot in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. . . . In response to a tragic traffic accident involving a Hasidic Jew, a young black boy, Gavin Cato was hit by a car and died later. Sharpton organized angry protests. . . . He railed against Jewish “diamond merchants” and later told a crowd that “if the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house.”
Ignited by the falsehoods, resentment exploded into violence. Groups of young black men threw rocks, bottles and debris at police, residents and homes. According to the New York Times, more than 250 neighborhood residents went on a rampage that first night, mostly black teenagers, many of whom were shouting “Jews! Jews! Jews!”
Roused by Sharpton’s rhetoric, the mob terrorized that Jewish community for nearly four days, during which 183 people were injured and the innocent visiting Australian University academic Yankel Rosenbaum, 29, was murdered in cold blood, stabbed to death by Sharpton’s mob, amid cries of “Kill the Jew! Kill the Jew!”
Truth Revolt Yankel Rosenbaum wasn’t the only person murdered by the rioters. On September 5th, Italian-American Anthony Graziosi, was dragged out of his car, brutally beaten and stabbed to death because his full beard and dark clothing caused him to be mistaken for a Hasidic Jew. During the funeral of Gavin Cato on August 26th, Al Sharpton gave an anti-Semitic eulogy, which fueled the fires of hatred.
The next evening, according to the sworn testimony of Efraim Lipkind, a former Hasidic resident of Crown Heights, Sharpton started agitating the crowd, saying “Kill the Jews.”
“The world will tell us he was killed by accident. Yes, it was a social accident. … It’s an accident to allow an apartheid ambulance service in the middle of Crown Heights. … Talk about how Oppenheimer in South Africa sends diamonds straight to Tel Aviv and deals with the diamond merchants right here in Crown Heights.
They said the rioters were being allowed to rampage unchecked, too little force was being brought to bear, and too few arrests were being made. Area Jews felt the police were under orders by the City’s first black mayor to hold back, that the police were not allowed to fight against the black rioters, who continued to grow bolder in their anti-Semitic attacks as they sensed the appeasement.
In all, the street violence against the Crown Heights Jews lasted three days/four nights starting with the evening of the accident. On Thursday evening, the police finally restored order, although sporadic violence against Jews continued for weeks after the riot was contained.
As for Al Sharpton, he went on to lead a second pogrom, this time against a Jewish-owned business in Harlem. He never apologized or even acknowledged his leadership of these two anti-Semitic pogroms, or any of his other incidents of racial agitation.
The first Sabbath after the funeral Sharpton tried unsuccessfully to kick up tensions again by marching 400 protesters in front of the Lubavitch of Crown Heights, shouting “No Justice, No Peace.” Sharpton called for the arrest of Lifsh, the driver of the station wagon. He stated this despite the fact that more than twenty similarly accidental vehicular deaths had occurred in Brooklyn since 1989 without a single arrest, several involving local Jews run down by blacks. The agitator’s pressure triggered Charles Hynes, the Brooklyn district attorney, to convene a grand jury.
When the investigation of the accident did not produce a criminal indictment against Yosef Lifsh, Al Sharpton encouraged the Cato family to seek big-bucks damages in a civil suit against Lifsh (who had since fled to Israel for his own safety). Sharpton announced that he would personally serve papers on Yosef Lifsh in Israel. He bought tickets and hopped an El-Al flight on the weekend of Yom Kippur. At Ben Gurion Airport, a woman spotted Sharpton hailing a cab and yelled to him, “Go to hell!‘ “I am in hell already,” the faux holy man shot back. “I am in Israel.”
The Religious Action Center sees Sharpton as a key bedfellow in the anti-Trump alliance as well as a bridge to the African-American community. [It] thus chooses to see Sharpton version 2.0, the recently minted civil-rights leader and power broker. Sharpton’s sordid past is off limits.