Reb Norman (Nechemia) Rosenbaum, z”l, a lawyer in Melbourne, Australia, who became known for his struggle for justice for the murder of his brother, Yankel, Hy”d, during the Crown Heights riots in 1991, passed away on Shabbos at the age of 63.
On August 19, 1991, hundreds of black men began rioting in Crown Heights. As the NYPD stood down – ordered by New York City Mayor David Dinkins to allow the gangs to “vent” – mobs began vandalizing Jewish homes, businesses and cars. Late that night, a bloodthirsty mob of 30 black men found what they were looking for: a Jewish man, walking down the street. Yankel Rosenbaum, a 29-year-old Lubavitcher chassid from Melbourne, Australia, was turning the corner of Union Street and New York Avenue when he encountered the violent gang. Rosenbaum tried fleeing toward Lubavitch headquarters on 770 Eastern Parkway, but he never made it. On the corner of President Street and Brooklyn Avenue, in front of the St. Marks School, the gang caught him and attacked him. One of the youths, 16-year-old Lemrick Nelson, Jr., stabbed Rosenbaum.
The murder of Yankel Rosenbaum was the most shocking and tragic incident that occurred during the Crown Heights riots in August 1991.
Shockingly, Nelson was acquitted at his criminal trial. None of the other attackers were even brought to trial.
In subsequent years, Nelson continued to live a criminal life. From 1994-1996 he was arrested, and in some cases convicted and jailed on various charges, ranging from weapons and aggravated assault to second-degree assault, disorderly conduct and criminal trespass.
During these years, Yankel’s brother Norman, who had become the spokesman for the Rosenbaum family and the fight for justice, refused to give up. He, along with a team of askanim, lawyers, and elected officials, led an ultimately successful fight to have Nelson tried once again, in 1997, this time for violating Yankel’s civil rights by attacking him because he was a Jew. Nelson was ultimately convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison; he was released in 2004.
Norman was a vocal leader and participant at many protests for justice for the Crown Heights community and his brother, calling Mayor David Dinkins, who was said to have told the NYPD to stand down and allow the angry mob to vent, responsible for the murder.
A state report criticized Mayor Dinkins and the police for their lack of action during the riots — a claim that helped Rudolph Giuliani defeat Dinkins in the next mayoral election.
In 2016, at the 25th anniversary of the riots and the murder of his brother which was commemorated with a memorial at the site of the stabbing, Norman Rosenbaum told Hamodia, “Obviously, I miss my brother. There is not a day that goes by when I, my mother, and our whole family do not think about him. I’m a zeidy now, and as time goes on and there are more simchos in the family, he is missed even more. It is not just the feeling that we are celebrating and he is not here, but a feeling of the loss of how much he would have added to the simchah.”
He is survived by his mother Fay, children Ari, Yoel, Yoni and Michal, and grandchildren.
He was predeceased by his wife Ettie in 2014.
The levayah was held in Melbourne on Sunday.
Yehi zichro baruch.