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Forward looks back on Crown Heights riots

August 20, 2011

The Jewish Daily Forward features a couple of excellent pieces on the 20th anniversary of the Crown Heights riots (here’s a timeline of what went down in that Brooklyn neighborhood). First, Seth Lipsky analyzes how the Forward’s coverage of the 1991 events differed from the NYT.

Just how premeditated was the Times’ effort to portray in morally equivalent terms the attacks made on the Jews was underscored by a recent column in New York Jewish Week by one of the Times’ reporters, Ari Goldman. On this anniversary of the violence, he penned a courageous account of what it was like to be a legman amid an anti-Jewish riot for the newspaper that boasted of issuing “All the News That’s Fit To Print.” He called in the facts, and they got rewritten into a story of a racial clash between blacks and whites or between blacks and Jews, when, in reality, no Jews had attacked anybody. The riot was an attack on Jews.


And here’s a piece on old hurts that still linger. Paul Berger  returned to his old neighborhood to take the temperature of the residents. He writes:

… I discovered that many of the grievances that supposedly underpinned the troubles 20 years ago remain. Blacks in the Caribbean and African-American community still harbor suspicions that Jews receive preferential treatment from the city. Their interactions with Jewish security patrols and, occasionally, Jewish landlords foster anger and resentment. Jews, meanwhile, live uneasily alongside a secular community blighted by unemployment and violent crime. Perhaps worse still, they nurse grievances that the riot was, far from an outpouring of anger at white America, an overtly anti-Semitic attack.

The incident that sparked the riots — a car accident in which a Jewish driver killed a black child — is tragic enough. But the indiscriminate attacks on Jews that followed are chilling to read about. And the Sharpton types fanning the flames with their talk of “diamond merchants” …. well, that’s just beyond obnoxious.

But there are very real tensions in this neighborhood that go much deeper than what happened in 1991. And, if you read all of Berger’s piece, you’ll see there’s also a real desire to coexist peacefully. Fascinating. Made me want to learn more.

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