Crown Heights Jews question honorary doctorate for Al Sharpton

by WorldTribune Staff, April 15, 2019

Members of the Jewish community in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights said a local college’s plan to award an honorary doctorate to Al Sharpton is “deeply offensive.”

Medgar Evers College, part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system, stated that the doctorate would be given to Sharpton due to his “unwavering commitment to racial, educational and socioeconomic equity.”

Al Sharpton. / Photo by Steve Terrell via Wikimedia Commons

The local Jewish community was quick to point out Sharpton’s central role in inciting the infamous 1991 Crown Heights riots.

“Sharpton played a lead role in inciting a modern day blood libel against the Jewish community of Crown Heights,” Yaacov Behrman, founder of the Jewish Future Alliance based in Crown Heights, told The Algemeiner.

The 1991 riots, which lasted for four days, began after a motorcade carrying Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson struck and killed a young African-American child named Gavin Cato. Soon after, 29-year-old yeshiva student Yankel Rosenbaum was stabbed and beaten to death by an African-American mob shouting “kill the Jew!”

Sharpton spoke at rallies and organized a march of hundreds through the Hasidic section of Crown Heights chanting “No justice, no peace.” In his eulogy for Cato, Sharpton referred to “diamond merchants” and said Cato was killed by “the social accident of apartheid.”

Yankel Rosenbaum’s brother Norman told the New York Post, “This is not a person you honor. Within the last 27 years he hasn’t changed. The same character is there. I think he’s a fraud and a charlatan whose actions over the years speak for themselves and they’re not good actions.”

Rabbi Eli Cohen, Executive Director of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, said the award would undo years of efforts to rebuild relations between the local communities. “For more than 25 years we have worked closely with Medgar Evers and others to bring the community together,” he told The Algemeiner. “The idea of a college in Crown Heights honoring a man who incited antisemitic violence here goes against everything we have accomplished.”

“Honorary doctorates should be awarded to individuals who are role models for the students of today,” Cohen added. “Sharpton does not fill that role. He has not even expressed true regret for his actions.”

In 1995, Sharpton railed against a local Jewish-owned business called Freddie’s Fashion Mart, calling the owner a “white interloper.” Following this, an African-American gunman opened fire in the store and set it aflame, killing seven.

Sharpton has since expressed regret for his statements about Freddie’s Fashion Mart, but has never apologized for his role in the Crown Heights riots.

“He traumatized my generation and never apologized to his victims,” Behrman said. “It is inexcusable and shamefully low to honor him in the same neighborhood where he incited the violence.”

According to the New York Post, if the Medgar Evers proposal passes CUNY’s Committee on Academic Policy, Programs and Research, it will go before the full CUNY board next month.

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