(photo credit: REUTERS)
NEW YORK – “Remember that most people are good people, most people are fair-minded people,” former New York City mayor David Dinkins told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. “In a city like ours that I call a gorgeous mosaic, we have people from all ethnic background come together and live by and large peacefully together, and I would hope that [young people in the United States] recognize that that’s who we are in this country, and not be misled by people like Donald Trump.”
Dinkins spoke to the Post at the New York Public Library, where he was addressing the inaugural One-to-One global forum, a marathon event featuring 12 consecutive hours of short talks all focused on social good.
The idea behind the event was inspired by the teachings of the Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, whom Dinkins had met several times while in office. On those occasions, he told the Post
, the rebbe blessed him and told him to act for the good of all communities in New York.
“I was in awe of the rebbe,” said Dinkins, who turns 89 next month. “The rebbe and his greatness helped me, and I’m sure he persuaded many others to go on the right path.”
While Dinkins served as the 106th Mayor of New York City from 1990 to 1993, he had to deal with what some called the city’s worst racial violence outbreak after the assassination of Martin Luther King: the Crown Heights riots.
Those riots, in which African Americans attacked Orthodox Jewish residents of Crown Heights in Brooklyn, broke out on August 19, 1991, when one of the cars in the motorcade carrying the rebbe struck two black children, killing one of them.
A Jewish Hatzolah ambulance crew rushed to the scene, but a rumor spread that they had ignored the dying black child in favor of treating the Jewish men in the car.
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This ignited rage and violence against the Jewish community.
A few hours after the car crash, Australian scholar Yankel Rosenbaum was stabbed and killed by African- American youths. The riots lasted three days.
“We will always deeply regret what happened in Crown Heights,” said Dinkins, the only African-American to have been mayor of New York.
“Word even went out that I as mayor had told the police to let the blacks attack the Jews. That was untrue and unfair. There is nothing worse than being wrongly accused, and this hurt me a great deal because my attitude was exactly the opposite. But history has a way of correcting things. The contemporary observer of the scene frequently sees a different thing than historians later.”
When asked how he views the role of today’s American leaders, Dinkins, wearing a printed blue bow-tie and sitting with his hands on a walking cane, replied: “Each of us, my generation and those under me – because I’m kind of old – we owe [young people] and those of [their] generation an opportunity to achieve [their] potential. We owe [them] that. When I came out of law school in 1956, we were told you’ve got to pay your dues. I think you should work hard, of course, but I believe that each generation should do better than the one before.”
Since leaving office, Dinkins has been teaching at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.
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