8: Black Antisemitism goes Mainstream: Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan
Support Black Lives Matter but do not ignore the long history of Black antisemitism
By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS
Nothing, however, was as explosive as President Jimmy Carter asking his U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young to resign in 1979. With the Young incident, African-Americans started using anti-Zionism as their form of antisemitism. Young went behind Carter’s back to meet with the Palestinians Liberation Organization (PLO) despite the past two administrations promising Israel they would not meet with the PLO until it “recognized Israel’s right to exist.” Young, however, had “misinformed” administration officials about the meeting, and Carter felt forced to have Young resign.
Although Jewish leaders and the Israeli government opposed Young’s actions, American Jewry feared an antisemitic backlash if the president would force Young to resign. When Carter let him go, the African American community blamed the Jews because they deemed their influence forced the resignation.  Dinnerstein points out, “It is impossible to exaggerate the impact of Young’s resignation. Not since the New York City school strike of 1968 had any incident drawn such a strong response from African Americans, their spokespersons, and their newspapers…. Young’s ouster shattered any possible reconciliation between Jewish and black leaders.”  The African American community was outspoken against the Jews accusing them of using their power to oust the highest-ranking African American in politics. They did not see what Young did wrong.
African American journalists did not spare words in condemning the American Jewry. Dinnerstein recounts, “William Raspberry of the Washington Post wrote that “the Young affair served to legitimize real antisemitism” among blacks.” Esther Edwards of the National Black Human Rights Caucus called Young “a scapegoat to appease Jewish ethnics here and in Israel.” While a black leader quoted in the Pittsburgh Courier used age-old stereotypes, blaming American Jewry’s “power, influence, and money.” Emergent African American leader Jesse Jackson “called the resignation a ‘capitulation’ to the Jews.” Jackson claimed, “The real resistance to black progress has not been coming from the Ku Klux Klan but from our former allies in the American Jewish Community.” 
After the Young incident, Jesse Jackson took over leadership of African-American civil rights and did everything possible to alienate further and accuse American Jews of impeding African-American advancement. Jackson started out working under Martin Luther King, Jr. King gave Jackson a role in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), heading their economic arm Operation Breadbasket in Chicago. Jackson claimed to be the last person to speak with King before his assassination and that the Civil Rights leader died in his arms after being shot by James Earl Ray, which many refuted. Afterward, Jackson clashed with Ralph Abernathy, who succeeded King as the chairman of the SCLC. Abernathy dismissed Jackson for conducting the Black Expo without permission. Jackson was known for his attention-getting tactics, and he went on to form the anti-poverty program, People United to Save Humanity (PUSH), in Chicago, which he renamed People United to Serve Humanity. The Reverend Al Sharpton followed him and also left the SCLC. 
Although Jackson supported reconciliation between white and African Americans, his rhetoric throughout the 1970s was full of stereotypes about Jews and antisemitic tropes. He falsely claimed four out of five of Nixon’s top advisors were Jewish. Jackson called administration officials Robert Haldeman and John D. Ehrlichman “German Jews,” even though they are not because of their economic policies. In a 1979 appearance on the CBS News television program “60 Minutes,” Jackson extolled antisemitic stereotypes against Jews, claiming, “Jewish-controlled industry kept blacks out of positions of authority.” When he found out CBS News correspondent Lesley Stahl was Jewish, Jackson commented, “She doesn’t look like she’s Jewish. She doesn’t sound like she’s Jewish.” 
Jackson also embraced anti-Zionism, taking a side against Israel and in support of the Palestinians. In 1980 Jackson claimed, “Zionism is a kind of poisonous weed that is choking Judaism.” After Young resigned, Jackson went to the Middle East to meet with PLO leader Yasser Arafat. After returning from tour, which the African American community approved, In September 1979, he told 400-people at a speaking event that African American support for the PLO marked “Black America’s finest hour.”  The Carter Administration did not approve of Jackson’s interference in foreign affairs. Jackson also aligned the African-American cause with those of Arab-Americans.
In 1984, Jackson decided to pursue the Democratic presidential nomination; he became the African-American candidate with serious contention for the nomination. Jackson’s economic promises led to support not only from African-Americans but liberals. Jackson, antisemitic rhetoric, however, was his downfall. In January 1984, Jackson spoke to African-American reporter Milton Coleman and made some comments about Jews, which he believed was off the record. Jackson called Jewish merchants Hymies and the area where clothier had their stores off Maxwell Street in Chicago, “Jewtown.” Jackson said, “Jewtown is where Hymie gets you if you can’t negotiate them suits down.” Jackson also called New York “Hymietown.”  Weeks later, Coleman allowed another reporter to use Jackson’s slurs against Jews in their article. After publication, there was an outcry for the antisemitic remarks.
Jackson’s leadership gave way to the rise of Black Muslim minister Louis Farrakhan, whose antisemitic rhetoric remains an issue today. Farrakhan would spend his thirty-year tenure helming NOI attacking and blaming American Jewry for the continued problems within the African American population.  The ADL calls Farrakhan the “Leading anti-Semite in America.” Through the years, Farrakhan blamed the Jews for a myriad of the world’s disasters, from the slave trade to the 9/11 terror attacks. He claims the Jews “conspire to control the government, media, and Hollywood.” Farrakhan rhetoric has also been anti-Israel and anti-Zionist; he calls Judaism a “deceptive lie” and a “theological error” and denies the Jewish right to the land of Israel. 
In 1984, the Nation of Islam leader came to his ally Jackson’s defense. On the radio, Farrakhan threatened Coleman, and in front of Jackson, he threatened American Jewry, saying, “I say to the Jewish people . . . if you harm this brother, I warn you in the name of Allah, this will be the last one you do harm.” In February, Jackson apologized to Jewish leaders in a speech at a Manchester, New Hampshire synagogue. Jackson distanced himself from Farrakhan but refused not to accept his support, preventing any forgiveness from Jewish leaders. Jackson’s campaign issued a statement claiming, Farrakhan was “not a part of our campaign’” but did not go further. The statement read:
“I find such statements or comments to be reprehensible and morally indefensible.
I am a Judeo-Christian and the roots of my faith run deep in the Judeo- Christian tradition. Such statements and thoughts have no place in my own thinking or in this campaign.
I will not permit Minister Farrakhan’s words, wittingly or unwittingly, to divide the Democratic Party.” 
The mainstream press also did not forgive Jackson for his actions. Jackson continued to offend Jews on the campaign trail minimizing their contributions to the civil rights movement. Speaking in the South, Jackson recounted, “There were signs that said, “No dogs, blacks or Jews.” The Klan was lynching blacks and using violence against Jews as well. So in many ways, neither was doing anybody a benevolent favor. Our interests converged.” Still, Jackson won primaries or caucuses in Louisiana, the District of Columbia, South Carolina, and Mississippi before dropping out of the race.
The 1980s brought South African leaders of the anti-apartheid movement who accused Jews of apartheid and regularly spewed antisemitic stereotypes. In 1984, Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa on a tour of the U.S. said of American Jewry spoke at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Tutu called the Jews “a light unto the nations,” but was also very critical of Israel. Tutu expressed about Israel, “I am myself sad that Israel, with the kind of history and traditions her people have experienced, should make refugees of others. It is totally inconsistent with who she is as a people.” Tutu accused Israel of massacring “Palestinian women and children at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut in 1982.” Tutu said “I was immediately accused of being antisemitic. I am sad because I think that it is sensitivity in this instance that comes from an arrogance — the arrogance of power because Jews are a powerful lobby in this land and all kinds of people woo their support.” In an earlier Connecticut speech, Tutu accused Jews of control, “the Jews thought they had a monopoly on G-d; Jesus was angry that they could shut out other human beings.”
Farrakhan was very much involved in Jackson’s campaign with his followers serving as Jackson’s bodyguards. Farrakhan rose to prominence by associating with Jackson. The higher profile gave Farrakhan a larger platform for his antisemitic rhetoric. In March 1984, Farrakhan stated, “Hitler was a very great man.” The controversy became an issue in April 1984, when Jewish leaders called for Jackson to repudiate Farrakhan.
In March 1984, Farrakhan stated:
“Here, the Jews don’t like Farrakhan, so they call him Hitler. Well, that’s a good name. Hitler was a very great man. He wasn’t great for me as a Black person, but he was a great German, and he rose Germany up from the ashes of her defeat by the united force of Europe and America after the first world war.
“Now, I’m not proud of Hitler’s evils against the Jewish people. But that’s a matter of record. He rose Germany up from nothing. Well, in a sense you could say there’s a similarity in that we’re rising our people up from nothing. But don’t compare me with your wicked killers.”
In April 1984, Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations “excoriated” Farrakhan, saying, “I pray that Rev. Jackson will use this latest wild and irresponsible statement by his supporter, Louis Farrakhan to at last publicly dissociate himself from Mr. Farrakhan and the dangerous demagogy he represents.” 
In a speech to the National Press in the Summer of 1984, Farrakhan attacked Israel saying, “40 years and she will never have any peace because there can be no peace structured on injustice, lying, thievery, and deceit using God’s name to shield your dirty religion or practices under His Holy and Righteous name.” Farrakhan went around speaking on college campuses with inflammatory guests, including a Holocaust denier.  Diner recounts, “In the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s he repeatedly called Jews ‘bloodsuckers’ and described Judaism as a ‘gutter religion.’” American Jews saw Farrakhan’s rhetoric as purely antisemitic and not as a matter of difference of point of view or policy.
On October 7, 1985, Farrakhan had his largest exposure speaking to an audience of 20,000 at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. The speech was full of antisemitic remarks and stereotypes. Dinnerstein recounts about Farrakhan’s speech and the audience’s enthusiasm for his antisemitic slurs. Farrakhan said:
“The Jewish lobby has a stranglehold on the government of the United States” elicited responses of “Yes!” and “Tell ’em Brother!’ “When Farrakhan asked, “Who were the enemies of Jesus?” the audience responded: “Jews! Jews! Jews!” And another time, “Are the Jews that are angry with me righteous?” “No,” came the passionate response. Comparing himself to the Messiah, Farrakhan observed: Jesus had a controversy with the Jews. Farrakhan had a controversy with the Jews. Jesus was hated by the Jews. Farrakhan is hated by the Jews. Jesus was scourged by Jews in their temple. Farrakhan is scourged by Jews in their synagogues Then, in remarks directed at Jews, he said: “The scriptures charge your people with killing the prophets of God,” and “I am your last chance, Jews,” it will be too late “when God puts you in the oven.” 
Thirty-five years later and Farrakhan still has not stopped his antisemitic attacks on American Jewry. In 2017, for his Saviours’ Day speech, Farrakhan claimed Jews are “not really Jews but are in fact Satan.” He called Jews “great and master deceiver[s],” and “the enemy of God and the enemy of the righteous.” Farrakhan also accused Jews of dual-loyalties singling out Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
“When you say, Mr. Trump, ‘America first,’ ask any Jew, even your son-in-law. America is never first, Israel is always first. And as long as Israel is first then whatever you think or plan will be in Israel before you leave the room in the White House. Mr. Trump, you have to extricate yourself from being controlled by anyone of these.”
In July 2020, Farrakhan gave a three-hour Fourth of July address on YouTube. Farrakhan said of Jews in his speech, “They tell lies to make you think I am a bigot or anti-Semite so that you won’t listen to what I’m saying. So far they’ve been pretty successful.” Farrakhan criticized the Talmud, “They made that word in their minds and in their believers’ minds greater than God’s word,” Farrakhan still denied being antisemitic, despite in the past calling Jews “termites” and referring to Judaism as the “Synagogue of Satan.”  Farrakhan expressed, “If you really think I hate the Jewish people, you don’t know me at all, [I’ve never] uttered the words of death to the Jewish people.”
Today, Farrakhan continues his attacks on Jews, in the 1980s and 1990s; he was one of many African American leaders and intellectuals who routinely spouted antisemitic rhetoric and stereotypes. On July 20, 1991, Leonard Jeffries, chairman of African-American studies at New York’s City College delivered a two-hour lecture at the Empire State Black Arts and Cultural Festival in Albany, which was almost entirely an antisemitic attack on American Jews. Jonathan Yardley of The Washington Post noted, “Talk such as Jeffries engaged in at Albany has nothing to do with ‘ideas’ — its bigotry, pure and simple.” Jewish leaders and newspapers called for his removal as a professor, at first the college removed him as a chairman of the department and allowed him to retain his professorship.
Jefferies made accusations, stating, “‘Rich Jews’ financed the slave trade and control the film industry with the Italian mafia and use that control to paint a brutal stereotype of blacks. Jeffries called Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch a ‘sophisticated Texas Jew,’ ‘a debonair racist,’ and ‘Miss Daisy’ (as in Driving Miss Daisy).” He also went after historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., whom Jeffries called “a weakling . . . slick and devilish.” Jeffries also targeted City College’s Jewish professors, whom he called a “‘Kabala’ of Jews who preside over City College.” He particularly went after mathematics professor Bernard Sohmer, whom he called the college’s “head Jew.” 
The speech received little attention until NY-SCAN, the state’s cable-television channel broadcast it, and The New York Post published an article.  City College’s Board of Trustees wanted Jeffries to resign. The backlash against Jeffries’s antisemitic remarks was strong among New York politicians and columnists kept it in the news. The President of City College Bernard Harleston wanted to do something about Jefferies and decided to remove him as chairman of the black studies department. Harleston chose his friend, Edmund Gordon, who was the John M. Musser Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Yale University to replace Jeffries.
Jefferies’ speech only increased his influence among African Americans which went beyond the classroom, when he returned from, Africa, 1,000 people greeted him at the airport. As the controversy erupted African American leaders Rev. Al Sharpton, Colin Moore, C. Vernon Mason, Sonny Carson, and Lenora Fulani rushed to Jeffries’ defense, turning the criticism around and attacking Jews as “race-baiters.” The Black studies department, its faculty, and students refused to acknowledge Gordon as the head of the department, while Jeffries refused to leave the chairman’s office. Gordon tried to serve as chairman working from the administration building.
In the end, Jeffries sued the college for $25 million and claimed City College violated his freedom of speech by removing him from his chairmanship over the speech. There was a federal jury trial with Judge Kenneth Conboy presiding over the case. The jury determined Jeffries’s speech was a “substantial and motivating factor” in his demotion and found the college had violated Jeffries’s right to freedom of speech. The jury awarded Jefferies $400,000 in damages while Judge Conboy ordered City College to return Jeffries to his chairmanship to the Black studies department and his $70,000–a-year tenured position at the college. Jeffries regained his chairmanship despite his antisemitism.  Jeffries gloated to the press after the verdict, “We’re elated there has been trial, tribulation, and triumph. The message is clear that there is freedom of speech, and that that umbrella stretches to African Americans.” 
In the 1980s and 1990s, Farrakhan and his disciplines at the Nation of Islam (NOI) disseminated most of the virulent Black anti-Semitism. One of the worst was the former NOI spokesman Khalid Abdul Mohammad. On November 29, 1993, Khalid delivered a speech at Kean College in New Jersey, which Michael calls, “demonstrated the extreme of Black antisemitism.” Michael thinks that Khalid’s views “articulate what many Blacks may believe and feel but do not express.” Khalid’s speech was one of the worst instances of antisemitic rhetoric that even Farrakhan felt compelled to dismiss him as the spokesman from the organization. After the speech, the ADL took a full-page ad in the New York Times highlighting and condemning Khalid’s speech. Khalid was an anti-Semite, Holocaust denier, racist, and a homophobe who even attacked Pope John Paul II. Khalid later belonged to the New Black Panther Party and continued throughout the 1990s his hate speech until he died in 2001.
Among his statements on Jews from his Kean College speech:
“Who are the slumlords in the Black community? The so-called Jews. . . . Who is it sucking our blood in the Black community? A white imposter Arab and a white imposter Jew.”
“Columbia Jew-niversity over in Jew York City.”
“You see, everybody always talk about Hitler exterminating 6 million Jews. . . . But don’t nobody ever asked what did they do to Hitler? What did they do to them folks? They went in there, in Germany, the way they do everywhere they go, and they supplanted, they usurped, they turned around and a German, in his own country, would almost have to go to a Jew to get money. They had undermined the very fabric of the society.” 
Black-Antisemitism continued to permeate academia with the publication in 1991 of Louis Farrakhan’s book, “The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews Volume One.” Farrakhan has recently published two more volumes. The three volumes look to revise history and the interactions between Jews and Blacks disproportionately villainizing American Jewry. The first volume accused Jews of having a greater role in the African slave trade during the colonial era than they did. Only minorities of Jewish merchants were involved in the slave trade, yet the book argues Jews were the primary slave traders and southern slave owners. In reality, Jews represented less than 2 percent of the slave traders and 1 percent of the slave owners.
Historians have condemned the book for its false thesis. In 1995, the American Historical Association (AHA) opposed “any statement alleging that Jews played a disproportionate role in the Atlantic slave trade.”
“The AHA deplores any misuse of history that distorts the historical record to demonize or demean a particular racial, ethnic, religious, or cultural group. The Association, therefore, condemns as false any statement alleging that Jews played a disproportionate role in the exploitation of slave labor or in the Atlantic slave trade.”
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the chair of the Afro-American studies department at Harvard University, referred to the volume as “the Bible of new antisemitism.” Gates notes, “The book massively misinterprets the historical record, largely through a process of cunningly selective quotations of often reputable sources.” Historian Ralph A. Austen points out, “distortions are produced almost entirely by selective citation rather than explicit falsehood … more frequently there are innuendos embedded in the accounts of Jewish involvement in the slave trade,” and “[w]hile we should not ignore the antisemitism of The Secret Relationship…, we must recognize the legitimacy of the stated aim of examining fully and directly even the most uncomfortable elements in our [Black and Jewish] common past.”
Throughout the nineties, Jewish historians published works refuting and discrediting Farrakhan’s accusations about Jewish involvement in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Starting in 1992, historian Harold Brackman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center published the first of three expanding versions refuting Farrakhan, first in 1992 “Jew on the Brain: A Public Refutation of the Nation of Islam’s The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews,” later that year as “Farrakhan’s Reign of Historical Error: The Secret Relationship Between Blacks & Jews” by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Brackman expanded it in 1994 as “Ministry of Lies: The Truth Behind ‘The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews’”.
In 1994, Brackman took to the pages of the New York Times to counter Farrakhan’s attacks on him, in the opinion piece, “Jews Had Negligible Role in Slave Trade.” Brackman wrote, “Mr. Farrakhan’s is the age-old antisemitic technique of distorting the work of Jewish scholars (and Jewish religious literature) to defame Jews. His animus against me is for writing for the Simon Wiesenthal Center “Farrakhan’s Reign of Historical Error,” exposing “The Secret Relationship” as hate propaganda masquerading as history.”
Throughout the rest of the decade, Jewish historians, including Yale professor David Brion Davis refuted Farrakhan. In fall 1992, Davis wrote the article, “Jews in the Slave Trade,” In 1993, historian and University of Pittsburgh professor Seymour Drescher wrote the article, “The Role of Jews in the Atlantic Slave Trade,” Immigrants and Minorities, 12, In 1993 Marc Caplan wrote, Jew-Hatred As History: An Analysis of the Nation of Islam’s “The Secret Relationship” published by the Anti Defamation League. In 1998, historian Eli Faber, “Jews, Slaves, and the Slave Trade: Setting the Record Straight,” a book published by New York University Press, and in 1999, historian Saul S. Friedman wrote the book “Jews and the American Slave Trade.”
Davis and Seymour published a statement condemning Farrakhan’s assessment and correcting his assertions.
“During the past few years, there have been a number of egregious assaults on the historical record in institutions of higher learning and at educational conferences. These assaults implicate Jews as a dominant group in the Atlantic slave trade and the enslavement of Africans in the New World. The claims so misrepresent the historical record, however, that we believe them only to be part of a long antisemitic tradition that presents Jews as negative central actors in human history. In such scenarios, Jews are the secret force behind every major social development from capitalism to democracy, every major cataclysm from the Medieval Pandemic of the plague through the French and Russian Revolutions to the collapse of Communism, and now, incredibly, appear for the first time, as the secret force behind slavery. Unfortunately, the media have given the latest charges wide currency, while failing to dismiss them as spurious. As professional historians, who have closely examined and assessed the empirical evidence, we cannot remain silent while the historical record is so grossly violated.
Atlantic slavery was an intercontinental enterprise extending over nearly four centuries. Ethnically, the participants included Arabs, Berbers, scores of African ethnic groups, Italians, Portuguese, Spaniards, Dutch, Jews, Germans, Swedes, French, English, Danes, white Americans, Native Americans, and even thousands of New World people of African descent who became slaveholding farmers or planters themselves. Since Portugal and Spain barred Jews from their empires, and since, by the 16th century most of the Jews who weren’t either killed or converted in Western Europe had fled eastward, it was impossible for Jews to play more than a marginal role in a vast system that attracted tens of thousands of pagans, Muslims, Catholics, and Protestants. Even in Holland and the Dutch colonies, where Jews were allowed to make their main “contribution” to New World slavery as merchants and planters, they always formed a minority. Similarly, Jews played only a nominal role in the slave system in the American South. Never more than a tiny fraction of the white population, they never formed more than a minuscule proportion of slaveholders.”
The Nation of Islam followed up with two other volumes of The Secret Relationship between Blacks and Jews that perpetuated more antisemitic myths and conspiracies. Volume Two was published in 2010 with the subtitle, “How Jews Gained Control of the Black American Economy.” The Anti-Defamation League explains the volume blames Jews for “promoting a myth of black racial inferiority and makes a range of conspiratorial accusations about Jewish involvement in the slave trade and in the cotton, textiles, and banking industries.” In 2016, they followed up with Volume Three, whose subtitle was “Leo Frank, the Lynching of a Guilty Man”. The ADL explains, “Early 20th century ‘Jewish businessmen’ worked to subjugate black people and enrich themselves by masterminding the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan,” and “Jews were secretly responsible for the lynching of Leo Frank.”
9: Crown Heights Riots and Today
The point of no return happened in 1991 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic Jews have lived in the district since after World War II, sharing the neighborhood with the growing African-American and South-American community. In Crown Heights, African Americans and Ultra-Orthodox Jews remained separate since they went to different schools, places of worship, and even grocery stores. On Monday, August 19, 1991, Yosef Lifsh was driving one of three cars in the motorcade of Chabad Grand Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who had been traveling to the Lubavitch cemetery in the borough of Queens to pray at the grave of his predecessor. Lifsh turned on a yellow or red light to keep up with the motorcade, hit a car, a poll, and then two children of Guyanese immigrants. The seven-year-old boy Gavin Cato died, and the girl, his cousin Angelina was severely injured, her leg broken, she lost a part of her ear and split her tongue.
Right away, the community blamed the Orthodox Jews in the neighborhood because the Hatzolah ambulance crew would not treat non-Jews, and the community felt if they had the young boy might have survived. The Rev. Al Sharpton attacked the Crown Heights Jewish community, calling them “diamond dealers” and said, “It’s an accident to allow an apartheid ambulance service in the middle of Crown Heights.” An antisemitic banner at the child’s funeral read, “Hitler did not do the job.” 
For three days from August 19–21, 1991, there were riots, looting of Jewish stores, homes, and cars, physically attacking Jews on the street. On August 20, a sixteen-year-old stabbed and beat a graduate student from the University of Melbourne in Australia, Yankel Rosenbaum, who was researching his doctorate in the U.S, Rosenbaum died from his injuries. The protesters marched in the streets screaming, “Death to the Jews!”
The Reverend Al Sharpton joined the riots on their second night. Sharpton saw in Crown Heights an opportunity to boost his national profile. Crown Heights resident Efraim Lipkind in his testimony recalled, “Then we had a famous man, Al Sharpton, who came down, and he said Tuesday night, kill the Jews, two times. I heard him, and he started to lead a charge across the street to Utica [avenue].” On the third day, Al Sharpton and Sonny Carson led a march where protesters held antisemitic signs, and they burned an Israeli flag. The protesters chanted, “No Justice, No Peace!” “Death to the Jews!” and “Whose streets? Our streets!” “On the back of his scapegoating of Jews, Sharpton become a national figure. He left behind a widening divide between Jews and blacks.”
Historian Edward S. Shapiro notes, “The Crown Heights riot of August 1991 was one of the most serious incidents of antisemitism in American history… The riot terrorized and traumatized the 20,000 Lubavitchers of Crown Heights. Yankel Rosenbaum, a Lubavitcher from Australia living temporarily in Crown Heights, was murdered; Bracha Estrin, a Lubavitch survivor of the Holocaust, committed suicide; six stores were looted; 152 police officers and 38 civilians claimed to have been injured; 27 police vehicles were damaged or destroyed, and 129 persons were arrested.”  Murray Friedman notes, “This was quite simply one of the worst episodes of violence directed against Jews in American history.” The Hasidic community called the riots and violence against the Jewish community a “pogrom,” the African-American community called it a “rebellion and uprising.”
Nearly thirty years later in Crown Heights, on June 7, 2020, 200 young Hasidic men and women came out to protest in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Rabbis and leaders of the Chabad refused to participate because they view the movement as too antisemitic. Miriam Levy-Haim, 32 organized the event that was also viewable through a live stream online. Levy-Haim told The Washington Post, “We thought it would make a profound statement as religious Jews.”
The Hasidic protesters held up signs in English, Hebrew, Yiddish, one quoted Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace laureate Eli Wiesel, “The opposite of love is not hate. It’s indifference.” The young protesters chanted as they marched, saying, “Black lives matter!” and “Jews for justice!” sparking “thank yous” from their neighbors.  The march was a step towards reconciliation in the diverse neighborhood that had been torn apart by the vicious race riots. Geoffrey Davis, a black community activist was touched by the march calling it bold. Davis told the Washington Post, “This was a message to young African Americans, who had never seen this sort of thing before, that some Hasidic Jews do care about their lives,” he said. “Now, that’s powerful.”  Rabbinical leaders in Crown Heights would want the Jewish community to be chanting “Jewish Lives Matter” after the string of antisemitic assaults in the five-boroughs, including Crown Heights at the end of the year.
 Dinnerstein, Antisemitism in America, 216.
 Ibid., Dinnerstein, Antisemitism in America, 216.
 Ibid., Dinnerstein, Antisemitism in America, 217.
 Ibid., Dinnerstein, Antisemitism in America, 217.
 Ibid., Dinnerstein, Antisemitism in America, 218.
 Ibid., Dinnerstein, Antisemitism in America, 218.
 Ibid., Dinnerstein, Antisemitism in America, 218.
 Dinnerstein, Antisemitism in America, 219; https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/clinton/frenzy/jackson.htm
 Dinnerstein, Antisemitism in America, 219
 Dinnerstein, Antisemitism in America, 220.
 Diner, Jews in America, 128.
 Dinnerstein, Antisemitism in America, 220–221.
 Benjamin, “The Bizarre Classroom of Dr. Leonard Jeffries,” 71.
 Shapiro, Edward S. “Interpretations of the Crown Heights Riot.” The Free Library 01 June 2002. <https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Interpretations of the Crown Heights Riot.-a0101763376>.
 Murray Friedman, What Went Wrong?: The Creation and Collapse of the Black-Jewish Alliance, (New York: Free Press, 1995, 2007, 2014), 2.
About the Author
Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS is a journalist, librarian, & historian. She is the author of Silver Boom! The Rise and Decline of Leadville, Colorado as the United States Silver Capital, 1860–1896, The Mysterious Prince of the Confederacy: Judah P. Benjamin and the Jewish goal of whiteness in the South, and the viral article, “OTD in History… October 19, 1796, Alexander Hamilton accuses Thomas Jefferson of having an affair with his slave creating a 200-year-old controversy over Sally Hemings.”
Ms. Goodman has a BA in History and Art History, and a Masters in Library and Information Studies both from McGill University has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies, where she focused Medieval & Modern Judaism. Her research area is North American Jewish history, particularly American Jewish history, and her thesis was entitled, “Unconditional Loyalty to the Cause: Southern Whiteness, Jewish Women, and Antisemitism, 1860–1913.”
Ms. Goodman contributed the overviews and chronologies to the “History of American Presidential Elections, 1789–2008,” edited by Gil Troy, Arthur M. Schlesinger, and Fred L. Israel (2012). She is the former Features Editor at the History News Network and reporter at Examiner.com, where she covered politics, universities, religion, and news. She currently blogs at Medium, where she was a top writer in history and regularly writes on “On This Day in History (#OTD in #History)” Feature and on the Times of Israel. Her scholarly articles can be found on Academia.edu. She has over a dozen years of experience in education and political journalism.