On Monday, Al Sharpton gave a speech at a conference held by the Religious Action Center, the advocacy and activism branch of organized Reform Judaism in the U.S. Sharpton instigated the 1991 Crown Heights riots, in which Yankel Rosenbaum was murdered, as well as the 1995 attack on Freddie’s Fashion Mart—a Jewish-owned business in Harlem—in which eight others were killed. In his speech, Sharpton offered some weak expressions of remorse over his past “excesses” and use of “cheap” rhetoric, and condemned anti-Semitism in general terms. Jonathan Tobin comments:
Sharpton’s vague apology . . . didn’t come close to accountability for his role in fomenting anti-Jewish riots and violence. . . . That the [Reform] movement should take upon itself the right to grant Sharpton absolution for the past is chutzpah indeed. Reform Jews weren’t chased and beaten in the streets of the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn in the summer of 1991, after Sharpton helped whip up hate by seeking to turn a traffic accident into an excuse for what many termed a pogrom. . . .
Had Sharpton owned up to his past in an honest manner, the situation now might be different. But his amorphous confession to rabble-rousing, in which the words “Crown Heights” or “Yankel Rosenbaum” never passed his lips, was more about self-praise and a chance to be cheered for his freshly minted interest in black-Jewish unity than actual repentance.
The fact that he condemned anti-Semitism and noted that one couldn’t fight racism without also standing against hatred of Jews may have sufficed for his audience. . . . But there were two things missing from that condemnation, which centered on the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville and the Pittsburgh and Poway Shabbat-morning synagogue shootings. Sharpton made no mention of the rise of anti-Semitic hate from some on the left, including Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. . . . Nor did he have a word to say about the dramatic rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York City, in which African Americans have targeted Orthodox Jews. But, of course, neither of those examples can be blamed on Donald Trump.