NORMAN Rosenbaum, the Australian lawyer who fought in the US to bring justice for his brother Yankel after he was killed during the 1991 rioting in New York’s Crown Heights, has died aged 63.
Believed to have been in poor health recently, Rosenbaum passed away in Melbourne on Saturday, weeks before the 29th anniversary of Yankel’s death on August 19, 1991.
Rosenbaum’s campaign brought him to the attention of US Charedi communities, where he was in demand to act as their legal spokesman. In Melbourne, he often gave free legal advice to Jews who could not afford his services. He was considered an authority on halachah and on batei din (Jewish law courts).
Yankel was 29, a Melbourne graduate student completing Chassidic studies in New York, when he was attacked by a mob shouting “kill the Jew”, and fatally stabbed.
The attack came during rioting after a vehicle in the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s motorcade accidentally ran down and killed a Guyanese-American child, Gavin Cato, 7.
Rosenbaum made frequent visits to New York, campaigning for justice for his brother after one of the attackers, Lemrick Nelson, Jr, was tried for Yankel’s murder and acquitted in 1992.
Nelson, Jr, who Yankel had identified as his main attacker, later confessed to his role, and in a 2003 trial, was found guilty of violating Yankel’s civil rights and was jailed.
“Norman was fighting for justice and never gave up,” family confidant and spokesman Isaac Abraham stated on Facebook, noting the Melbourne barrister made the journey from Melbourne to New York “hundreds of times” in his campaign for Yankel.
In 2016, on the 25th anniversary of Yankel’s killing, Rosenbaum told The AJN, “The enormity of his loss is not something that’s diminished over time, quite the opposite.”
The Rosenbaum family reached a $US1.25 million malpractice settlement with the hospital where Yankel died, as doctors had failed to notice one of his four stab wounds for about an hour after he was admitted.
Rosenbaum formed a close bond with Carmel Cato, father of Gavin. “On the anniversary of Gavin’s passing and Yankel’s murder, we try to get together,” Rosenbaum told The AJN.
Ronny Kowadlo, a friend of the Rosenbaums, described Norman’s death as “a huge loss for the community”.
Laid to rest at Lyndhurst on Sunday, Rosenbaum is survived by his mother Fay, and adult children Ari, Yoel, Yoni and Michal.