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Voices From The Street

Crown Heights: 20 Years Later

Norman Rosenbaum: No Closure

There are still people involved in the murder of my brother [Yankel] who haven’t been brought to justice. The facts about what happened have been distorted over time, and it’s very distasteful.

Closure? My brother was murdered. How can you have any closure? It wasn’t just two people who surrounded and attacked him. There’s no such thing as closure. That’s a crock. What I would like to see is a commitment from law enforcement to say, ‘Listen, there are still murderers out there,’ the same way they did in “Mississippi Burning” in 1964, when people were brought to justice 30-40 years later. Why can’t they do the same thing here?

My family is still committed to continuing the pursuit of justice. Had I been the victim my brother would do the same.

If you look at what I said 20 years ago you wouldn’t find any difference. If you look at what is happening in London [the riots occurring earlier this month] and the video of what took place in Crown Heights you’ll see the similarity: People using a tragic set of circumstances as an excuse to loot and riot.

There is a program being planned [for Aug. 18] that they say is marking the 20th anniversary of the Crown Heights “conflict.” They are trying to change history, which is repugnant and most disrespectful to my brother, who was murdered because he was a Jew.

People who had key roles are being legitimized. That a guy like [Rev.] Al Sharpton could be given a show on MSNBC is absolutely repugnant.

Norman Rosenbaum is a tax lawyer in Melbourne and the older brother of Yankel Rosenbaum.

Dan Botnick: Bad Timing, Good Neighbors

I moved into Crown Heights with my wife and two children on the night the riots started. The house was on Carroll Street between New York and Nostrand avenues, far away from ground zero [of the riots], but close enough to hear the police responding at the nearby 71st Precinct.

My neighbors, mostly Caribbean Americans were very friendly and helpful. We never had any trouble with them, nor they with us.

I had a printing business in downtown Brooklyn and took the train to work and I remember that there was a lot of pushing and shoving — people were tense.

About two weeks after the riots someone started slashing my tires on a regular basis, so I approached the block association to join. They said they had to have a meeting to decide whether to accept me but they did. So when I told them about the tires they called the police and the police [who had taken earlier complaints] said, “Someone is slashing the Jewish man’s tires?” And they said no it’s happening to the whole block, which wasn’t exactly the truth. They caught the guy pretty quick, a guy who was living somewhere on the block.

It was clear during the riots that this was not a mass movement and there were plenty of people [on the block] as unhappy about it as I was.

Dan Botnick, a native of Springfield, Mass., is a former executive director of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council.

Tamar Adelstein: Traumatic Experience

On the first day of the riots, I saw [Rev.] Al Sharpton standing at the corner of Utica and President with a bullhorn in his hand, in full view of the police. He arrived about 10 a.m. and was ranting and raving “No Justice, No Peace.” Around 2 p.m. there was a yell of “charge,” or something like it, and people started running toward Kingston Avenue.

It was raining. I saw women in that crowd run back and get their umbrellas and then rush forward to join that mob.

I had five children at the time and was expecting my sixth. The youngest was 18 months and the oldest was 11. My house was damaged, windows broken. I thought I was in labor and needed to be taken to the hospital, but I insisted on a police escort for my family. The ambulance crew ran for their lives. We stayed in Flatbush and later in Buffalo, where I’m from, and didn’t come back until school was about to start.

It has affected some of my children academically, developmentally. I was not affected because I am an activist and fighter. I formed a women’s group that met regularly with police to ensure better security in the neighborhood.

I did not get involved with the black-Jewish mothers group because it inevitably brings some sort or moral equivocating. This wasn’t something with two sides that share responsibility for what occurred; it was a pogrom.

Tamar Adelstein was one of 91 plaintiffs who sued New York City in a suit that was settled in 1998 for $1.5 million.

Editor’s Note: Rev. Al Sharpton did not respond to The Jewish Week’s requests for an interview sent to his publicist. The Jewish Week also reached out to former Mayor David Dinkins and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who was then a top police supervisor, for their recollections but they did not respond in time for publication.

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