Today marks the 30th anniversary of the riots that broke out in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn after a yeshiva student got into a car accident that left one seven-year-old boy dead and another badly injured. Local African Americans responded by attacking the Lubavitch Ḥasidim with whom they share the neighborhood—along with police trying to restore order—and destroying Jewish property. Egging on the violence was the anti-Semitic preacher Al Sharpton, who remains a prominent figure in American public life. Rioters fatally stabbed Yankel Rosenblum and injured 38 civilians and 152 police officers. Ed Kosner recalls:
Rioters—many as young as thirteen and fourteen—ravaged the neighborhood for . . . three nights. “Kill the Jews,” they shouted. “Hitler didn’t do his job.” And: “Get the cops.” One of the mayor’s own community-liaison staffers—a white man—was knocked unconscious with a brick and his car destroyed. Police swarmed the area but were uncharacteristically passive. They separated the blacks and Jews but did little to suppress the violence except pant fruitlessly after the speedy Nike-shod black teens. Ray Kelly was then the chief deputy to [then-Mayor David] Dinkins’s African-American police commissioner, Lee Brown, who came to the job from Houston and spent so much time away from police headquarters that he was known derisively as “Out-of-Town Brown.”
Serious crime in the two precincts that constitute Crown Heights has diminished more than 75 percent in the years since the riots—although Kelly cautions that the way the statistics are now compiled may make the picture brighter than it actually is. Citywide, anti-Semitic incidents have increased significantly, with a late spike after the recent missile exchanges between Israel and Hamas. . . . The perpetrators in these cases appear to be Muslim New Yorkers. African-Americans are involved in about a third of anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York these days, according to police figures. Video footage has also captured several incidences of surprise attacks on Orthodox Jews, suddenly beaten in the streets by black men after having been targeted because of their distinctive dress.