In Crown Hts., Mayor Presses For Harmony

by
By IAN FISHER
Published: Monday, November 30, 1992

Mayor David N. Dinkins took his campaign for racial harmony to Crown Heights yesterday, urging a mixed group of black youths from the neighborhood and Jewish teen-agers from around the city to look beyond their differences and unite in ways their parents have often not been able to.

Holding a microphone and weaving around the Crown Heights Youth Collective, the Mayor worked a crowd of 100 or so teen-agers, at times like a television talk-show host. He encouraged the teen-agers to talk about race and reflect on a short presentation they had just seen on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a show that evoked images of the bombings, beatings and bravery of the civil-rights movement in the South.

“What did you get from that — anybody?” Mr. Dinkins asked.

“That all people are created equal,” said Carlton Screen, a 24-year-old Flatbush, Brooklyn, native who is now a basketball player with the Michigan Great Lakers.

“Anybody disagree with that?” he asked. When no one responded, he noted, “See, we are making progress.” Effort to Defuse Tension

Mr. Dinkins’s appearance was part of his efforts to stem the racial tension that has engulfed his administration and inflamed political opponents since the acquittal earlier this month of a black youth, Lemrick Nelson Jr., in the slaying of a Hasidic student, Yankel Rosenbaum. The slaying occurred amid racial disturbances in the Brooklyn neighborhood that began when a black child, Gavin Cato, was accidentally struck and killed by a car driven by a Hasidic man.

In contrast to the high emotions since the verdict, the meeting yesterday was calm. The Jewish teen-agers at the meeting were not from Crown Heights, but from an organization of Reform youth groups from around the city. The organizers had invited local Lubavitch teen-agers, but none came, a fact that one Lubavitcher said was for religious reasons, but which some black participants said they interpreted as a snub.

Mr. Dinkins also answered questions from reporters about a protest, to be led by Assemblyman Dov Hikind, planned for tonight at a major re-election fund-raiser for the Mayor at the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers. Mr. Hikind, Democrat of Brooklyn, said yesterday that the protest would keep up pressure for an investigation into Mr. Rosenbaum’s death and the events leading up to the violence in Crown Heights last year.

Mr. Dinkins, referring to his own efforts to bring people together, said that if Mr. Hikind concentrated “on efforts like this, frankly it would be more useful.”

Yesterday’s meeting, on Franklin Avenue, had been organized before the verdict and was the second of two exchanges between the Crown Heights Youth Collective and the City Region Federation of Temple Youth since the violence in 1991. The event was not planned by the Mayor’s office, which has arranged several meetings with black and Jewish groups in recent weeks. Aides said he attended to send a message to teen-agers to “increase the peace,” a theme from his televised speech to the city last Wednesday.

The Mayor, who received a warm welcome from the teen-agers and another hundred or so adults at the center, stressed historical ties between blacks and Jews in the United States. He said the two groups must forge better communications, even when they are not in agreement.

“Reasonable people can differ, and it’s all right if people don’t agree on all things,” Mr. Dinkins said. “But they need to find ways to express the disagreement and to understand each other’s point of view.”

Mr. Dinkins continued: “We’ve got some African-Americans who are anti-Semitic. We’ve got some Jews that don’t like black folks. But that’s not most people. It’s just some people. And we need to work at that, and work hard at it, because for you young people it is your life. You ought not permit any of us to behave improperly with respect to race relations.”

Explaining what was perhaps an example of miscommunication, Levi Huebner, a 32-year-old Lubavitcher, one of apparently two Hasidic men from Crown Heights at the meeting, said that young people from his neighborhood had not come mostly because their religious practices frown on gatherings that mix males and females and that include the singing of Christian religious songs, as was done during the show about Dr. King.

[Really? “religious practices”, what about a Mesira (police interview) on the holy day of Shabbat?.
I guess “religious practices” don’t apply to Paul the Goy Huebner].

“Everybody has a right to their religion, and I think it’s very beautiful, but for a Jewish person to attend a church service, it’s just not allowed,” said Mr. Huebner, who volunteers at the center and helps organize basketball games between black and Jewish youths in the neighborhood.

Both the Jewish and black youths said the meeting was a good first step.

During Mr. Dinkins’s talk, he wandered in front of the stage, letting the young people themselves talk about race.

“Two very oppressed groups throughout history, in their backgrounds, shouldn’t be against each other; they should be together fighting what oppresses both of them,” said David Soskin, 14.

The Mayor smiled broadly. “Now does that make sense or does that make sense?” he said. “I just know, I just know in my heart that good days are coming.”

Lakiesha Booker, a black 16-year-old from Crown Heights, said she had attended in part because she had never in her life spoken to a Jewish person on the streets and felt that doing so was long overdue.

“I don’t really blame anybody,” she said. “But somebody, who ever has the power, should do more to get people together.”

Caroline Borman, a Jewish 17-year-old from Manhattan, said she faced a similar problem at her temple in midtown when young people there talked about improving race relations.

“We were always very separated because we were all Jews,” she said. “We talked about these issues every day but we’re not going to solve anything talking amongst ourselves. We have to talk to African-Americans.”

http://www.nytimes.com/1992/11/30/nyregion/in-crown-hts-mayor-presses-for-harmony.html?n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/People/N/Nelson,%20Lemrick%20Jr


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