NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- As New York City approaches the 20th anniversary of the Crown Heights riots, the family of Yankel Rosenbaum is unhappy that Rev. Al Sharpton will participate in a panel discussion about the state of black and Jewish relations.
Despite the criticism, Rabbi Marc Schneier, who is hosting the panel at the Hamptons Synagogue in West Hampton this Sunday, said the topic of conversation is not directly or solely related to the riots themselves. He spoke with 1010 WINS Wednesday and defended his decision to invite Sharpton.
"If you look at the topic of the discussion, it's on the state of black-Jewish relations today, 20 years after Crown Heights, so the discussion will involve Rev. Sharpton's connection with the Jewish community today," Schneier said.
This Friday marks two decades since the deaths of a black child, Gavin Cato, and Australian rabbinical student Rosenbaum resulted in three days of violence between African-Americans and members of the Jewish community in Brooklyn.
The family of Rosenbaum is also incensed that Sharpton will be present at the forum because they believe he helped escalate the violence with some of his comments during the unrest.
Rosenbaum's brother, Norman, was especially upset and said Sharpton did "absolutely nothing" for relations between the two groups.
"Rabbi Marc Schneier should take a damn-good, hard look at the videos of the riots over the three-day period, look at the media reports and he'll see there clearly the role Al Sharpton played," he said.
A statement from Sharpton's spokesperson made note that he has "engaged in many such discussions" and accepted the invitation to speak at the panel.
"For those extremists who want to use this to cause further harm than dialogue and healing, it is unfortunate and Rev. Sharpton will not participate in a circus," the statement read.
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