Councilwoman-elect Laurie Cumbo is taking heat this week after she wrote a letter stating that knockout attacks in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights may stem from black residents fearing they will be pushed out of their neighborhoods by Jewish landlords.
Cumbo, who is black, was elected to represent Crown Heights in January.
"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 a letter, which was emailed to supporters and posted to 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,” the letter continued. “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."
She said her sentiments "offer possible insight as to how young African American/Caribbean teens could conceivably commit a 'hate crime' against a community that they know very little about."
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) says the 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, which evokes classic anti-Semitic stereotypes," ADL’s New York Regional Director Evan Bernstein wrote in a statement.
Rabbi Chanina Sperlin, who stood by Cumbo during a press conference condemning the knockout attacks in November, said he couldn't disagree more with the letter.
"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."
Rabbi Sperlin said Cumbo's perspective ignores the fact that Jewish residents face their own struggles in the community.
"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 Sperlin said.