Brooklynites come together 25 years after Crown Heights riots


Jewish and black Brooklynites called for continued peace and unity on the 25th anniversary of the Crown Heights riots Sunday — though the absence of one prominent guest showed some divisions remain.

Norman Rosenbaum, whose brother Yankel Rosenbaum was stabbed to death by a block mob chanting “get the Jew!” did not attend the One Crown Heights event amid a debate over whether the goings-on were too festive.

Carmel Cato lit a candle in honor of his 7-year-old son whose death on Aug. 19, 1991 sparked three days of violence in the neighborhood, but chose not to address the crowd.

But after the event he told reporters he wished his friend, Norman Rosenbaum, had been alongside him.

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“The communities can come together, to show the world that it can happen. The Jews and the blacks are able to live together peacefully,” Cato said, sporting a white shirt that read “25 years Commemoration. Believe Peace.”

Asked if he wished Rosenbaum had attended, Cato answered with a simple, “Yes.”

Asked if he agreed with Rosenbaum that the remembrance should not include a festival, he shook his head, “No.”

“I spoke to him on this matter. He’s his own person. What he wants to do is good for me. I have no problem,” Cato said.

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Isaac Abraham, a longtime spokesman for the Rosenbaum family, criticized the event as having been organized by groups without sincere ties to the community.

“It’s nothing more than a publicity stunt and a photo opportunity,” Abraham said.

“It’s an insult, an embarrassment, a chutzpah. What are we going to do next, what’s the next agenda? Hand out cotton candy on Holocaust day?”

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Carmel Cato lit a candle in honor of his 7-year-old son whose death on Aug. 19, 1991 sparked three days of violence in the neighborhood. The event was organized by Devorah Halberstam (r.)

(Debbie Egan-Chin/New York Daily News)

On Wednesday, Rosenbaum and Cato enjoyed pastrami sandwiches together. Their friendship, they said, represented a mutual respect and understanding that should characterize all of Crown Heights.

But the riots still clearly caused pain.

Devorah Halberstam, a community activist who helped organize the gathering, took the podium to remember those painful days.

“Twenty-five years ago I watched as my community was attacked by a mob chanting ‘Kill the Jews!’” said Halberstam, a community activist, whose son was killed in a 1994 shooting of a van full of Jewish students on the Brooklyn Bridge.

“The riots, as they are now called, I realized then that they are deep and painful memories. After 25 years there needs to be validation of their suffering,” she added, referring to Rosenbaum’s parents, who were Holocaust survivors.

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