A PLEA FOR RACIAL UNITY

January 23, 2020 at 4:45 am

In Crown Heights, Brooklyn, a neighborhood with a long history of racial tension, a community leader with a track record of healing sets out to bridge the divide between black youths and Hasidic Jews.

For more information on the Crown Heights Youth Collective, click here.

Aired on January 22, 2020. 

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>>> AS THE CITY STRUGGLES WITH
THE WORRYING SPIKE IN
ANTI-SEMITIC HATE CRIMES, BLACK
COMMUNITY LEADERS ARE RALLYING
BEHIND THE JEWISH COMMUNITY AND
SAYING MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE TO
STOP THE HATE.
THE RECENT NO HATE NO FEAR MARCH
ACROSS THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE DREW
THOUSANDS OF NEW YORKERS FROM
ALL BACKGROUNDS AND RELIGIONS
AND IN BROOKLYN, WHICH HAS
BECOME ONE OF THE EPICENTERS OF
ANTI-SEMITIC INCIDENTS, PASTORS
AND RABBIS HAVE BEEN MEETING AND
PRAYING TOGETHER TO FORGE A PATH
FORWARD.
ACCORDING TO THE NYPD DATA,
ANTI-SEMITIC HATE CRIMES WENT UP
SOME 26% LAST YEAR COMPARED TO
THE YEAR BEFORE.
THE NYPD HAS NOT RELEASED
RECORDS ON SPECIFIC INCIDENTS
BUT SEVERAL CASES, ACCORDING TO
LOCAL REPORTS INVOLVED BLACK
YOUTHS ATTACKING JEWS IN
BROOKLYN'S CROWN HEIGHTS
NEIGHBORHOODS.
THAT'S DISTRESSING TO MANY
INCLUDING RICHARD GREENE, A
LOCAL ACTIVIST WHO FOR 40 YEARS
HAS BEEN WORKING TO BUILD
BRIDGES BETWEEN BLACK AND JEWISH
COMMUNITIES IN THE AFTERMATH OF
THE INFAMOUS CROWN HEIGHTS RIOT
BACK IN 1991.
GREENE IS THE FOUNDER AND CEO OF
THE CROWN HEIGHTS YOUTH
COLLECTIVE WHICH RUNS A NUMBER
OF OUTREACH PROGRAMS FOR AT-RISK
YOUTH.
THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.
>> THANK YOU FOR INVITING ME
OVER.
>> I WANT TO GET TO SOME OF THE
SPECIFICS ABOUT WHAT YOU'VE BEEN
DOING, WHAT YOU THINK NEEDS TO
BE DONE, BUT LET'S START BY
SETTING THE STAGE WITH A BIGGER
PICTURE, QUESTION, IF I CAN.
>> UM-HUM.
>> WE TALKED ABOUT 26% INCREASE
IN THE LAST YEAR.
REPORTS WERE THAT THERE WERE AT
LEAST 14 ANTI-SEMITIC INCIDENTS
THAT TOOK PLACE IN THE LAST TWO
WEEKS ALONE OF 2019.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS DRIVING
THIS SURGE, THIS RECENT SURGE OF
ANTI-SEMITIC VIOLENCE?
>> WELL, THERE'S A NUMBER OF
THINGS HAPPENING THERE.
ONE, THE FACT THAT THESE YOUNG
PEOPLE GET A LOT OF THEIR
INFORMATION FROM EACH OTHER
THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA, AND
SOMETHING LIKE THAT HAPPENS, IT
SORT OF HAS A WAY OF SPREADING
THROUGH THAT MEDIUM, AND THESE
YOUNG PEOPLE ARE NOT THEN MADE
AWARE OF THE RELATIONSHIPS THAT
WE'VE HAD IN THAT COMMUNITY, NOT
ONLY THAT COMMUNITY BUT
HISTORICAL RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN
BLACKS AND JEWS THROUGHOUT THE
HISTORY AND THAT'S SOMETHING I
KEEP EMPHASIEMPHASIZING, THE
SCHOOLS
HAVE TO PICK UP, THE PARENTS,
COMMUNITY PEOPLE HAVE TO PICK
THAT UP, IT'S A RELATIONSHIP
BETWEEN US AND BEEN THERE
HISTORICALLY.
>> LET ME JUMP BACK NOW, ABOUT
40-SOME YEARS, WHEN YOU STARTED
YOUR ORGANIZATION, WHAT WAS IT
THAT CAUSED YOU TO DO THAT AND
WHAT WERE YOU HOPING TO DO WITH
THE ORGANIZATION?
>> WELL, YOU KNOW, I GREW UP IN
CROWN HEIGHTS.
I'VE BEEN IN CROWN HEIGHTS NOW
SINCE THE DODGERS WERE GETTING
READY TO LEAVE.
IT'S BEEN A WHILE.
BUT I HAVE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY
TO LIVE IN THAT COMMUNITY.
I WENT TO SCHOOL THERE FROM THE
FIFTH GRADE ON, AND I COULD
REMEMBER GROWING UP, ONE OF THE
THINGS THAT I DID ON SATURDAY
WAS THEY WOULD LEAVE A COIN ON
THE PLATE AND I WOULD GO INSIDE
FOR THEM AND FLIP THE SWITCHES
BECAUSE THE HASIDIC COMMUNITY
COULDN'T LIGHT LIGHTS ON THE
SABBATH.
I WAS ACROSS FROM 770, THE
HEADQUARTERS, AND I HAD THAT
RELATIONSHIP THROUGHOUT MY TIME,
MY LITTLE ONES GREW UP THERE,
BUT NOW YOU HAVE A NEW
GENERATION OF THE 21st CENTURY
CHILDREN THAT ARE COMING UP.
THEY HAVE NO CONNECTION TO
SCHOOLS, I WHEN I WENT TO HIGH
SCHOOL, RASNUS WAS AN INTEGRATED
HIGH SCHOOL.
IT DOESN'T HAPPEN ANYMORE, SO
OUR YOUNG PEOPLE, THEY HAVE NO
WAY OF KNOWING THEIR NEIGHBORS.
>> WHAT DO YOU THINK CREATES
THAT DIVIDE?
AS YOU MENTIONED, HISTORICALLY,
THERE WAS A BOND, A RELATIONSHIP
BETWEEN BLACKS AND JEWS.
YOU HEARD HISTORIANS SAID EACH
RECOGNIZE BOTH GROUPS WERE
VIEWED AS OTHERS SO IT WAS
HELPFUL TO BOND TOGETHER.
WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS NOW THAT
THIS GENERATION, ESPECIALLY OF
YOUTHS, DOESN'T UNDERSTAND THAT,
AND LOOKS AT EACH OTHER AS AN
OTHER, AN OTHER TO BE AVOIDED
AND AS WE'RE SEEING, SOMETIMES
TO BE ATTACKED.
>> UM-HUM.
WELL YOU UNDERSTAND THAT YOU
MADE MENTION OF W.B.DUBOIS
COMING INTO THE 20th CENTURY
WITH BLACKS AND JEWS, FORMED AN
ORGANIZATION CALLED NAACP, AND
THAT ORGANIZATION WAS THERE AT
THE FOREFRONT OF THE SPEARHEAD
OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT.
THAT ORGANIZATION WAS IN THE
COURTS.
MANY OF THE JEWISH LAWYERS WHO
WERE THERE TO DEFEND WHETHER IT
WAS THE SCOTTSBOROUGH BOYS OR
THE OTHER ISSUES AROUND, THERE
WAS THAT RELATIONSHIP.
WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE AND TEACH
THAT HISTORY AGAIN FULL FORCE.
SO THIS IS THE HISTORY THAT I
SORT OF HOLD VERY SACRED, THAT
IT HAS NOT BEEN TOLD NOW, AND
AGAIN, WHAT THESE YOUNG PEOPLE
ARE HEARING ARE THINGS THAT ARE
PRETTY MUCH BLOWN OUT OF
PROPORTION, AND IT'S GOT TO BE A
NEW, CROWN HEIGHTS 1991, AFTER
THAT, WE HAD SO MANY PROGRAMS
THAT WERE GOING UNDER FORMER
DAVID DENKINS' ADMINISTRATION.
>> LET ME ASK YOU ABOUT THAT, TO
GET TO THAT.
I WANTED TO TALK ABOUT 1991.
CROWN HEIGHTS RIOTS.
QUICK SYNOPSIS, A JEWISH
RELIGIOUS OFFICIAL DRIVING A CAR
ALONG WITH A GROUP,
UNFORTUNATELY HITS AND KILLS A
YOUNG BLACK CHILD.
SHORTLY THEREAFTER, THERE IS A
ROSENBAUM 27-YEAR-OLD RABBIICAL
STUDENT FROM AUSTRALIA IS
TRACKED DOWN AND MURDERED BY A
YOUNG GROUP OF BLACKS, MOST
PEOPLE BELIEVED IT WAS IN
RETALIATION FOR THE CAR
ACCIDENT.
TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE
EXPLOSION THAT TOOK PLACE THEN,
AND MAYBE MORE IMPORTANT, WHAT
IT DROVE IN TERMS OF PROGRAMS
AND APPROACHES TO TRY TO REMEDY
WHATEVER THAT RIFT WAS BETWEEN
BLACKS AND JEWS.
>> THE EXPLOSION, AS YOU WOULD
SAY, THAT FIRST COUPLE OF DAYS
WE HAD A LOT OF THINGS
HAPPENING.
THE MAYOR CAME OUT.
WE MET ON THE CORNER WITH THE
LEADERSHIP IN THE HASIDIC
COMMUNITY, SOME OF THE YOUNG
PEOPLE FROM BOTH SIDES, AND WE
STARTED A PROGRAM RIGHT AWAY.
THE SCHOOL 167 WAS ON THE CORNER
OF SCHENECTADY AND THE EASTERN
BLOCK, WE USED THE SCHOOL AS A
HEADQUARTERS SETTING, TO BRING
YOUNG PEOPLE FROM BOTH
COMMUNITIES TOGETHER.
IF YOU SAT THERE AND HEARD THE
MISNOMER INFORMATION THAT THESE
YOUNG PEOPLE HAD ABOUT EACH
OTHER, AND WE STARTED THAT
CONVERSATION GOING.
WE STARTED OUT OF THAT CAME THE
STREET OUTREACH PROGRAM WHICH
WAS ORIGINALLY AN EVENT THE
MAYOR PUT TOGETHER, THE
COUNCILMAN PUT IT TOGETHER, AND
THEY WOULD GO OUT ON THE STREET,
IF THE MOUNTAIN WON'T COME TO
MOHAMMAD, MOHAMMAD HAS TO IF TO
THE MOUNTAIN.
WE HAVE TO MEET THE YOUNG PEOPLE
ON THE BLOCK THAT THEY HUNG OUT
AND BRING THEM INFORMATION.
WE HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THAT THE
INFORMATION THEY WOULD GET WOULD
GIVE THEM AN OPPORTUNITY TO SEE
THEIR JEWISH NEIGHBORS NOT AS
BEFORE, TWO SHIPS PASSING EACH
OTHER IN THE NIGHT, NOT PICKING
EACH OTHER UP, NOT KNOWING WHO
EACH EITHER IS.
THAT GENERATION NOW HAS GROWN
UP.
THEY'RE PROBABLY GRANDPARENTS
NOW.
SO WE HAVE TO NOW RETURN TO GET
TO THAT YOUNG POPULATION.
>> AND YET THE OUTREACH, STREET
OUTREACH WAS EFFECTIVE BACK
THEN.
>> IT WAS SERIOUSLY EFFECTIVE.
>> NOW IT'S DIMINISHED.
IT'S THE NUMBER SAYING AT ONE
POINT IN TIME YOU HAD 21 VANS.
>> 21 VANS THEN.
>> HOW MANY NOW?
>> WE'RE DOWN TO ONE.
WHEN I GOT THAT ONE VAN THAT
CAME FROM QUEENS, I THINK
ANOTHER AGENCY, AND HE SAID THAT
WOULD BE THE LAST ONE ON THE
ROAD.
STREET OUTREACH DOES NOT THAT
HAVE SAME MOMENTUM AS IT HAD
BEFORE
>> WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?
>> YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENED, IN
OUR WORK, WHEN IT GETS, WHEN WE
WIN, THEN IT SORT OF, IT'S NOT
REALLY A WIN FOR US, IT'S A WIN
FOR THE CITY IN GENERAL.
WE HAVE SOUTH CENTRAL L.A. NOT
LONG AFTER CROWN HEIGHTS.
WE WERE ABLE TO HOLD.
WE HAD WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, WE
WERE ABLE TO HOLD THESE
COMMUNITIES, WE WERE ABLE TO
TALK TO PEOPLE FROM OTHER PARTS
OF THE COUNTRY, TO TALK ABOUT
HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR COMMUNITIES
FROM GOING TO WHERE WE WENT TO,
AND THANK GOD, CROWN HEIGHTS
WAS, WE'VE HAD INCIDENTS OUT
THERE NOW SINCE THAT TIME, BUT
WE WERE ABLE TO KEEP IT DOWN TO
A MINIMUM, AND THAT IS WHAT I
THINK THE VANS AND THE OTHER
PROGRAMS THAT WERE ABLE TO DO
WAS THERE.
I THINK WE HAVE THE GREAT
OPPORTUNITY NOW TO KEEP THAT
GOING.
I'M NOT SAYING AS I SAID AGAIN,
41 YEARS I'VE BEEN DOING THIS
WORK.
41 YEARS IS A GOOD LENGTH OF
TIME, YOU KNOW.
I TELL FOLKS I'M 71 YEARS OLD.
I JUST LOOK 70.
>> NOT A DAY OVER 69.
>> THANK YOU.
BUT I'M CONCERNED THAT MY GRANDS
AND GREAT GRANDS TO PASS ON THIS
INFORMATION.
THIS GREAT CITY OF OURS, WE ARE
PLACED IN OUR CHOICES BETWEEN
AMERICA AND THE WORLD, WE HAVE A
GREAT OPPORTUNITY.
CROWN HEIGHTS IS A PLACE HALFWAY
BETWEEN NEW YORK CITY AND UNITED
STATES, TO PASS ON THIS
INFORMATION, TO GROOM THE NEXT
GENERATION.
>> WHAT DO YOU THINK WE NEED TO
DO?
I'M GOING TO ASK YOU TWO SORT OF
TWO CATEGORIES HERE.
ONE I'M GOING TO LUMP TOGETHER
WHICH IS THE CITY AND THE
SCHOOLS.
>> OH, YES.
>> AND THE OTHER, FAMILIES.
PARENTS.
WHAT DO WE NEED TO GET FROM BOTH
OF THOSE ENTITIES SO THAT WE CAN
GET YOUNG BLACKS TO SAY JEWS ARE
NOT OUR ENEMIES.
WE DON'T NEED TO ATTACK THEM, TO
HAVE THE JEWS SAY BLACKS ARE NOT
OUR ENEMIES, GO BACK TO WORKING
TOGETHER.
WHAT HAS TO BE DONE?
>> YOU MENTIONED THE FAMILIES
ARE VERY IMPORTANT.
YOU HAVE TO GET YOUNG PEOPLE
FORMULATED WHEN THEY WALK OUT
THOSE DOORS BUT INSIDE THE
SCHOOLS, AFTER CROWN HEIGHTS WE
HAD THE SCHOOL BUILDINGS OPEN AT
NIGHT FROM THE TIME AND THAT'S
HOW I GREW UP IN THE SCHOOLS.
THE SCHOOL BUILDINGS HAVE TO BE
OPEN, AND WE WERE ABLE TO DO SO
MANY THINGS WITH THAT
AFTERSCHOOL PROGRAM.
IT WASN'T JUST COMING IN AND
THROW A BALL AROUND.
IT WAS A PROGRAM THAT YOU HAD
COUNSELING, WE HAD JOB
OPPORTUNITIES, OTHER THINGS, WE
HAD INFORMATION WE PASSED ON TO
THEM.
THAT HAS PRETTY MUCH BEEN
DIMINISHED RIGHT NOW.
THE NUMBERS JUST ARE NOT THERE
ANYMORE.
AND THE FAMILY, THE FAMILIES,
MOTHERS AND FATHERS HAVE TO BE
ABLE TO EDUCATE THE LITTLE ONES
GROWING UP, BUT AGAIN OUR
PARENTS IN THE MEANTIME ARE
WORKING.
IT'S A KIND OF A TOUGH BALANCE
TO BE A FAMILY.
THE FAMILY AS WELL AS -- SO THE
COMMUNITY HAS TO BECOME THE
FAMILY.
WE HAVE TO BE ABLE TO -- THE
CHURCHES HAVE TO BECOME THE
FAMILY.
WE HAVE TO BE ABLE TO HELP THESE
FAMILIES ALONG WITH INFORMATION.
WE HAVE TO TAKE THESE YOUNG
PEOPLE AND YOU KNOW, SAY LISTEN,
BECAUSE I GET THE CALLS.
I HAVE THE GRANDMOTHER CALL ME,
MENTION WHEN HER GRANDSON WAS IN
SOME ISSUES THAT HAPPENED OUT ON
THE STREET OF CROWN HEIGHTS AND
NORMALLY, AN INCIDENT LIKE THAT
WOULD BE A MATTER OF GOING,
HELPING THEM OUT.
ONCE IT BECOMES, GRADUATES TO
THAT LEVEL OF ANTI-SEMITISM,
THAT 14-YEAR-OLD WILL BE TREATED
AS AN ANTI-SEMITIC CRIME AND
THAT'S ANOTHER PIECE WE HAVE TO
EDUCATE THESE YOUNG PEOPLE IN
THE STREET, AS I TOLD THERE'S
NOTHING I CAN DO AT THIS POINT
IN A NORMAL SCENARIO, NOT NOW.
IT'S IN THE HANDS OF A HATE
CRIME UNIT, WHATEVER UNIT THAT
HANDLES THAT.
>> GET THEM TO UNDERSTAND WHAT
MIGHT HAVE BEEN A SMALLER
OFFENSE IN THE PAST, IT CAN NOW
BE LIFE ALTERING.
>> ABSOLUTELY, ABSOLUTELY.
>> YOU'VE DONE WONDERFUL WORK.
>> THANK YOU, KINDLY.
>> FOR ALL THESE YEARS AND WE
STILL NEED YOU TO CONTINUE TO DO
THIS.
>> I'LL BE AROUND FOR A LITTLE
WHILE.
>> WE WILL COUNT ON IT.
THANK YOU FOR SHARING WITH US.
WE LOOK FORWARD TO TALKING WITH
YOU AGAIN.
>> TAKE CARE.
>> FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE
YOUTH COLLECTIVE VISIT OUR
WEBSITE AT METROFOCUS.ORG.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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