By DENNIS KING
Letter to the New York Post, April 9, 1998 (never published)
Former mayor David Dinkins' recent outburst about the "Park Avenue Jews" was in part an attempt to rationalize his own paralysis of will during the Crown Heights pogrom. But the Post's editorial response to Dinkins (April 8, 1998) also included some egregious rationalizing.
The Post would have us believe that the mainstream Manhattan-based Jewish organizations responded "within hours" to the violence in Crown Heights, rallying "to the aid of their oppressed co-religionists." In fact, as was widely documented in the pogrom's aftermath, the mainstream Jewish organizations did very little except issue tepid press releases.
This has been noted in many Post columns, as well as in the Jewish weeklies and many other newspapers, over the years. No less an authority than the ADL's Abe Foxman has acknowledged that the response of the major Jewish organizations was too little and too late.
These organizations are well funded and politically adept. They clearly had the capacity to exert immediate and massive pressure on the Dinkins administration. Within 24 hours of the pogrom's unfolding, they could have staged an emergency rally in front of City Hall, bombarded the mayor's office with thousands of phone calls and telegrams, and held a televised press conference inside Crown Heights with the personal attendance of the top leaders of every major Jewish organization: all with the demand for an immediate police crackdown on the rioters, not just vague calls for calmness and a racial "dialogue."
In addition, these organizations could have prevailed on the most influential New Yorkers in business and politics (including Dinkins' own liberal advisors and tennis partners) to privately give Dinkins an ultimatum: stop the violence or else we'll withdraw our political support from you (I, for one, cannot believe this would not have worked).
Undeniably, the Jewish leadership was unprepared for Crown Heights and experienced, like Dinkins, a failure of will. To cover up this failure, as the Post editorial attempts to do, only makes it all the more likely that the Jewish community will yet again be unprepared when the next anti-Semitic flare-up occurs.
Or does the Post really believe that in this era of Arab-sponsored bombings in lower Manhattan and Farrakhan/Sharpton rantings in the inner city (and thousands of Militia members training with assault weapons in the heartland for an apocalyptic showdown with what they see as a "Zionist" dominated U.S. Government), the leadership of American Jews can simply go back to sleep?