The New York Post printed an interview this Sunday with Lemrick Nelson, Jr., the man who stabbed to death the young visiting Australian and Hassidic Jew Yankel Rosenbaum at the heights of the Crown Heights Riots. His two cents after ten years in prison?
“Let bygones be bygones,” he pleaded. “All it will do is bring back people’s memories. You’re just going to create tension for me.”
Wait a minute.
Before we can let bygones be bygones I think we need to talk to my generation about what happened during the riots in August 1991.
Think about it, if you are my age (27) than you were only 8-years-old at the time of the riots. I wasn’t paying attention then, and years later, I know that the Crown Heights Riots were a battle between blacks and Jews in New York City, but if you had asked me “who is Yankel Rosenbaum?” I wouldn’t have known the answer (try that one on your friends and see how many people know who he was, and how he died).
I wouldn’t have known that what started the riots was that Rabbi Menachem Schneerson motorcade hit and killed Gavin Cato, a 7-year-old black child innocently walking on the sidewalk nearby. Or that 152 cops and 38 residents were injured, in addition to those two killed in the riots.
You don’t let “bygones be bygones” when there is still much to learn.
For more on the Crown Heights Riots, check out this New Jersey Jewish News feature “Crown Heights riot — fact, fiction, and plenty of blame” and to learn more about the (sort of) current state of race relations in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, read this article from the New York Times in 2001 called “In Crown Heights, a Decade of Healing After Riots but Scars Remain.”
Here’s a clip of footage from the riots: