The festive marking of the 25 years since the 1991 pogrom perpetrated against the Jews of Crown Heights by some of their African-American and Caribbean-American neighbors continues what has been decades-long blurring of its significance.

The undeniable diminution of attacks against Crown Heights Jews is perhaps something to celebrate. But the theme that this progress is the result of two disputing sides having resolved their differences is not. There were no differences that had to be reconciled. What was required was a confession of error and a denunciation of anti-Semites and anti-Semitism by the activists and self-styled leaders who did so much to inflame the mobs.

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Notwithstanding the media spin at the time, led by The New York Times, there were no two sides to the violence. Ari Goldman, the former Times reporter who had been assigned to cover the riots, wrote in 2011 about how his reports were sanitized by Times editors in order to peddle the notion that this was a general clash between blacks and Jews.

“In all my reporting during the riots,” he wrote, “I never saw – or heard of – any violence by Jews against blacks. But the Times was dedicated to this version of events: blacks and Jews clashing amid racial tensions.”

What Mr. Goldman said he did see, and hear, and report, was blacks chanting “Heil Hitler” and “Death to the Jews.”

Thus, like the pogroms of old in Europe, Crown Heights was about the random targeting of Jews by those unhappy with their lot in life. Ironically, A.M. Rosenthal, the legendary former executive editor who at that time was writing as an opinion columnist, made that point two weeks after the riots. In a column titled, “Pogrom in Brooklyn,” he wrote:

 

The anti-Semitic outrages of Crown Heights are aimed at the Jews of only one neighborhood in one city – for the moment.

But American Jews who do not understand that the same kind of political thugs will try now to lead the same kind of street thugs to burn Jewish property and break Jewish bones in other cities are blind to reality, deaf to history – and suicidal…

The press treats it all as some kind of cultural clash between a poverty-ridden people fed up with life and a powerful, prosperous and unfortunately peculiar stuck-up neighbors – very sad of course, but certainly understandable. No – it is an anti-Semitic pogrom and the words should not be left unsaid.

 

Keep in mind that Yankel Rosenbaum, a”h, was not even in the motorcade transporting the Lubavitcher Rebbe that was involved in the tragic accident resulting in the death of 7-year-old Gavin Cato. But Mr. Rosenbaum was a Jew, and that’s all the roving bands of hoodlums needed to know. And Al Sharpton’s harangues to the rioters about “diamond dealers” left no doubt in anyone’s mind about his message of group responsibility.

If the lesson of Grown Heights is not that mindless violence is never appropriate, all the festivals and talk of unity will amount to nothing but meaningless kumbaya moments.

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