A local New York City politician and ally of mayor-elect Bill de Blasio says the recent spate of “knockout” attacks in Brooklyn may stem from “a genuine concern” about Jewish influence.
Laurie Cumbo, the councilwoman-elect for the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights, made the comments in an open letter posted to her Facebook page. In the letter, Cumbo reports that many of her African-American constituents are alarmed by the growth of the local Jewish community.
The resulting tension, she says, could have lead to a number of attacks on Jewish residents that bear the hallmarks of a “game” in which teens attempt to knock someone unconscious with one punch.
“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,” Cumbo wrote. “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.”
Like mayor-elect de Blasio, Cumbo hails from the resurgent left wing of the city’s Democratic Party. De Blasio, who once volunteered to assist the radical socialist Sandinista movement in Nicaragua, will be New York City’s first Democratic mayor in 20 years when he’s inaugurated next month.
In the 1,200-word letter, Cumbo insists that she does not approve of crime, saying the “we should never blame a victim, or try to explain away any wrongdoing.”
However, Cumbo writes that in “many ways governmental neglect, outside uncontrolled influences and failed leadership have led to the breakdown that so many young people of color are currently facing.”
Cumbo also despairs that she feels “apart [sic] of the very system that has caused the destructive path that so many young people have decided to take while I am simultaneously demanding that they be arrested by that same system.” She also complains that the media is spending too much time talking about Jewish victims of crime, and not enough about black ones.
Crown Heights, the Brooklyn neighborhood Cumbo represents, is a mostly black community with a large Hasidic Jewish minority. It was also the scene of a deadly anti-Jewish riot in 1991 after a limousine driven by a Hasidic man accidentally killed an black child.
Police are currently investigating at least seven possibly anti-Semitic attacks in the neighborhood. According to local news site DNAinfo, police are currently “trying to determine” whether the attacks are related to the “knockout game.”
Members of Crown Heights’ Jewish community are condemning Cumbo’s statement.
“I don’t know where the wild dream is coming from that Jewish people want to kick African Americans out of their houses…but it’s definitely not coming from the Jewish community,” Rabbi Chanina Sperlin, a longtime community leader, told DNAinfo.
Others are calling on de Blasio to respond.
“Eight years of Giuliani stilled and calmed the city; 9/11 created a new era of good common feeling; the perpetuation of Giuliani policies under Michael Bloomberg helped keep the urban peace. Now, only a month before the inauguration of DeBlasio, something ugly and evil is rearing its head. Who is there to speak out against Cumbo’s words?” writes Commentary’s John Podhoretz. “De Blasio?”