It is my most sincere prayer that this gets resolved and we don’t have another set of riots like the 90s.

The New York Daily Sun reported today, Crown Heights, Brooklyn is about get a 25 foot high police watchtower.


In response to the growing black-Jewish tension in Crown Heights:

In the aftermath of a series of violent assaults on members of the Jewish community in Crown Heights, the police department has deployed a piece of modern technology that is based on an age-old defense tactic: the watch tower.

The “sky tower,” as police call it, stands about 25 feet high on the corner of Carroll Street and Troy Avenue. A police officer sits behind tinted windows on a swivel chair inside the compartment, where he can monitor video feed from four cameras, and even the wind speed from a meter on the roof.

This is the first time the police have used the tower for crime prevention. It was acquired earlier this summer and has been used at the West Indian Day parade and for security during President Bush’s visit to ground zero.

“It literally gives us the high ground from which to deter crime or to respond to crimes in progress,” the police commissioner, Raymond Kelly, said.

Police have also set up command center vans at two other spots in Crown Heights.

Not half a block from the tower, a group of young men assaulted a teenage boy on the night of Yom Kippur last Sunday. The boy, who neighbors identified as Mendel Chesney, 16, was walking on Carroll Street when he was hit in the head from behind by a fist or a rock. He blacked out for a few moments and woke to a group of between five and eight young men pummeling him, witnesses said. Two neighbors down the block ran to his aid, and chased three of the attackers into the arms of the police. Mr. Chesney had a laceration to his head that required three staples, a broken nose, and cuts and bruises, police and community members said. A witness heard one of the attackers call Mr. Chesney a “Jew.”

For many in the chasidic Jewish community, which has lived for decades mixed with the West Indian community in the neighborhood, the recent attacks appear to have been disproportionately against chasidic Jews. In the last year an elderly woman was robbed, several teenagers were violently mugged, and home invasions have been more common, community members said.

This affects me personally.

Black Jews — who are represented considerably in the Lubavitch sect — are caught in the middle of a volatile crossfire. On the one hand, we are often seen as traitors to the black community – many of us are converts who left black families to go and “live with them Jews.” On the other hand, especially for those of us in Ashkenazi communities, we often bear the brunt of racism at the hands of other Jews, the all-too-common upshot of Jews having become white in America.

Situations like this made many black Jews rise to action in the 90s, working for much needed reconciliation between the two communities. Still, don’t think that this went over seamlessly, I am sure many people were not welcomed warmly into black communities, especially in Lubavitcher clothes. Acute “you’re either with us or them” situations often leave us beeling torn and homeless.

We are, in such extreme situations, invariably confronted with the felonious concept of “which are you, black first or Jewish first?” as if one ever has such a choice. There is never a time where one is any less black than they are Jewish or vice versa. And with my yarmulke and beard, the world doesn’t give me the luxury of the choice, either.

Obviously one is bound by the laws of the Torah to help a fellow Jew, to love one’s fellow Jew, etc., but is there possibly a more emotionally potent example of wanting to be a “light unto the nations” as when one’s own birth nation is in need of light, of help?

One can not act as if this is not class-related. And there is the serious issue of racism within the Jewish community that needs to be addressed for the sake of all humanity.

The prophet Ovadia, an Edomite convert, had to prophesy about the downfall of Edom, where he was from. Are the black Jews of today in a similar position, G-d forbid? Of seeing the downfall of the black community underneath a police state and sociologically suicidal waves of hate crimes?

I want this violence to end now and the healing of the root causes to begin.

I am exceedingly distressed. I only hope that a whole reconciliation process won’t be necessary this time.