Brooklyn Politician: Rising Tension Between Blacks, Jews to Blame for 'Knockout' Attacks

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A new wave of suspected hate crimes against Jews in Brooklyn might have been triggered by tensions between blacks and the borough's Jewish community, a newly-elected local councilwoman suggested.

In one such attack, which took place last month and was documented by a surveillance tape, a group of teenagers punched a 20-year-old Jewish man in the neighborhood of Crown Heights. The unprovoked attack was one of eight confirmed incidents of violence against Jews in Brooklyn since September. According to reports, none of the victims of the so-called "knockout game" were mugged after being hit.

"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," councilwoman-elect Laurie Cumbo said in a 1,240-word open letter posted Tuesday on her Facebook page.

Cumbo, who was elected to represent the 35th district - which includes Crown Heights - wrote that while she respect and appreciates "the Jewish community’s family values and unity that has led to strong political, economic and cultural gains," she also recognizes that "the accomplishments of the Jewish community trigger feelings of resentment, and a sense that Jewish success is not also their success."

But not everyone seems to agree with her. According to a report by DNAinfo, Rabbi Chanina Sperlin, a Crown Heights Jewish community leader who lately joined her in a press conference to condemn the attacks, criticized Cumbo's letter. In his opinion, her claims unjustly ignore the fact that Jewish residents fully share the economic pressures felt by black and Caribbean residents.

Cumbo is "coming in on such a left foot, and she didn't even step into the City Council yet," he was quoted as saying.

"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," the rabbi said.

A response was also issued by the Anti-Defamation League, which said Cumbo's letter "evokes classic anti-Semitic stereotypes."

“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," ADL's New York Regional Director Evan Bernstein wrote. “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." 

A scene from the security footage (screenshot).

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