NY Councilwoman: Racial Tension Between Blacks and Jews Behind ‘Knockout Game’

Laurie Cumbo of Crown Heights said many black residents are concerned about being displaced as the Jewish community expands. 

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Laurie Cumbo

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One Brooklyn, N.Y., councilwoman is pointing to continuing racial tensions between the black and Jewish communities in her neighborhood as the reason behind the "knockout-game" attacks.

Laurie Cumbo, who was recently elected to represent the neighborhood of Crown Heights starting in January, released a letter on Tuesday saying that black residents feel threatened by the growing Jewish community, and that could be the cause behind the current violence, DNAinfo New York reports.

“Many African American/Caribbean residents expressed a genuine concern that as the Jewish community continues to grow, they would be pushed out by their Jewish landlords or by Jewish families looking to purchase homes," she wrote in the letter that was emailed to supporters and posted on her Facebook page. "I respect and appreciate the Jewish community’s family values and unity that has led to strong political, economic and cultural gains. While I personally regard this level of tenacity, I also recognize that for others, the accomplishments of the Jewish community triggers feelings of resentment, and a sense that Jewish success is not also their success."

However, other high-profile members of the neighborhood disagree with this interpretation. The Anti-Defamation League said that her words touched on “classic anti-Semitic stereotypes,” the news site reports.

"As an organization that has worked for more than 20 years to improve Black-Jewish relations in the aftermath of the Crown Heights riots, we are troubled by the incoming councilwoman's sentiments, particularly her comment about resentment over Jewish economic success, which evokes classic anti-Semitic stereotypes," New York Regional Director Evan Bernstein said in a written statement, according to the news site. "Still, it seems from her letter that she means well and we would be open to meeting with her and others in the community to continue the dialogue."

Rabbi Chanina Sperlin also expressed disagreement, calling the sentiment that Jewish residents wanted to kick out black residents a "wild dream," and insisted that the idea was not coming from her community.

"I saw her letter. I told her I totally disagree," Sperlin said. "I think she has a lot to learn in this community ... she’s coming in on such a left foot, and she didn't even step into the City Council yet."

"Expressing, as you have, a sympathy for those who hold the success of the Jewish community in contempt—as a success 'not their own'—almost rings as an apology for those who are committing violent crimes as a response to their resentment," New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind wrote Wednesday, the site reported.

"As you state later in your letter, if one person attacks another, regardless of the motivation, there is no justification for such an action."

According to the report, there have been at least seven attacks in areas that include Crown Heights, which the New York Police Department Hate Crime Task Force are investigating as possible anti-Semitic crimes. Those seven attacks could be connected to the violent “knockout game,” where attackers attempt to knock out a passerby with a single punch.

Read more at DNAinfo.

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