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The Crown Heights riot of August 1991 was one of the most serious incidents of antisemitism in American history. It took place in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, the worldwide center of the Lubavitch Hasidic movement, and lasted for three days. The riot was precipitated by an automobile accident involving a motorcade carrying the Lubavitcher rebbe back from one of his periodic trips to the Lubavitch cemetery in the borough of Queens. The accident killed a young boy named Gavin Cato and injured his cousin Angelina. 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. (1) While the property damage and the number of killed and injured were small compared to other riots in American history, they did not appear so to contemporaries. The extensive attention the riot received was due in part to the fact that it occurred in the media center of America, if not of the world. The riot was preceded by two other events in 1991 which, along with the riot, seemed to indicate that the liberal political alliance between blacks and Jews was unraveling and that a new chapter in the history of black-Jewish relations and of New York City had opened. The first of these was the publication of the first volume of the Nation of Islam's Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews, which emphasizes the involvement of Jews in the slave trade and slavery. The second was a much-discussed speech in Albany in 1991 by Leonard Jeffries, a professor at City College of The City University of New York. He accused Jews of having controlled the slave trade and of subjecting blacks to derogatory stereotyping through their control of the mass media, particularly Hollywood. Jeffries' speech created an uproar in New York and was one of the factors leading to his dismissal as chairman of his college's Black Studies Department. (2)

June 1
American Jewish Historical Society
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.

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