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October 30, 2014 / 6 Heshvan, 5775
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NYC Councilwoman-Elect: ‘Knockout’ Triggered by Jewish Success

The future New York City Councilwoman blamed the violence of "young people of color" in her community on "governmental neglect, outside uncontrolled influences and failed leadership."
Many "knockout" attacks have occurred in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, home to Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters at '770' Eastern Parkway.

Many "knockout" attacks have occurred in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, home to Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters at '770' Eastern Parkway.
Photo Credit: Courtesy

New York City Councilwoman-Elect Lauri Cumbo will be representing a portion of Crown Heights in Brooklyn beginning this January.

Cumbo took on a highly emotionally-charged topic in a long letter she sent to her constituents.  She posted that letter on her Facebook page – it has since been removed but is still available here – in which she discussed her understanding about the origins of what is widely referred to as the “Knockout Game.” Most of the Knockout attacks in New York City have taken place in Crown Heights. The New York City media outlet The Gothamist addressed the issue at length.

Knockout is a crime in which teens, seeking to gain notoriety, attempt to punch into unconsciousness a random victim. There is no theft. The sole goal is to, with a single punch to the head, “knockout” a blameless victim.

In New York City, at least, the victims have been largely, though not exclusively, Jewish.  Virtually all of the perpetrators have been African Americans.

Cumbo explained in her Facebook post that while campaigning in her district this past summer, she heard from many African American and Caribbean residents of a resentment felt towards the other minority in the Crown Heights community – Jews.

That resentment was attributed to “Jewish success” and the sense that “Jewish landlords” will push out their black tenants in favor of Jewish tenants. Cumbo relayed what she heard about this resentment at a town hall meeting about the Blackout problem. She offered that view because, she wrote, it was her view that resentment towards this  “Jewish success” could be at least part of what is fueling the hostility which leads to African American and Caribbean youths engaging in Knockout.

Cumbo goes to some length to declare her own respect for the Jewish people. She explained that pointing out the resentment, for her, is an effort to help to honestly explore the origin of the violent trend. Here is part of Cumbo’s explanation:

I admire the Jewish community immensely. I am particularly inspired by the fact that the Jewish community has not assimilated to the dominant American culture, and has preserved their religious and cultural values while remaining true to themselves. 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.

Cumbo was not excusing the violent behavior.  But she was resentful that the media attention given to the Knockout events had caused it to become a racially divisive issue.  In part, she blamed a Nov. 26 article in The Jewish Week for that focus on race.

Over the past month many black leaders in Crown Heights and throughout the City of New York have come out squarely, publicly, against the Knockout trend. See the video at the end of this article from a Nov. 18 press conference held by African American community leaders speaking out against the crime.

Cumbo wrote in her public letter that she wanted to play a role in bringing together the different racial groups in her constituency. She said that she wants them to move forward towards a better relationship than what they currently have.  Where she places the blame for the violence is worth noting. This is how she described it:

As an African American woman, this is challenging, because I recognize that it is Black children and not Jewish children that are playing the “Knock Out Game.” Why is this? 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. I feel torn because I feel apart 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.

Former Congressman Eliot Spitzer commented on Cumbo’s Facebook posting.  He was highly supportive. He also mentioned that when Cumbo first thought about running for office he spoke with her about “different issues in the Jewish community.” Five people “liked” Spitzer’s comment – including Spitzer.

Here is the video from the Nov. 18 press conference of African American Crown Heights community leaders condemning – unequivocally – the Knockout violence.

About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.


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20 Responses to “NYC Councilwoman-Elect: ‘Knockout’ Triggered by Jewish Success”

  1. Cherie Lewis says:

    It’s always interesting to discuss a wider perspective on news issues. However, a violent crime against an innocent person remains a violent crime against an innocent person. To the best of my knowledge, resentment and/or anger against others including government or “successful Jews” is not an acceptable legal defense against a charge of assault or attempted murder.

  2. Tired of the African American excuses for violence against persons that are contributing members of society.

  3. Everyone has the free will to be a contributing member of society. G-d plans your life but u choose your path good or evil. The family unit here in America is at risk. Single mothers with children from different men whom aren’t supporting or involved in the nurturing of their kids. No morals, lack of foundation. Parents need to be involved in everything your kids do. Be nosey ask questions set rules lead by example. Kids need to know they’re destined for a better life no matter where or whom you are. No excuses for assaulting another human being for accomplishing their goals. G-d blesses everyone.

  4. more bull shi##…. oh poor babies someone worked hard to be successful so let’s punch them out… didn’t this woman read they are attacking 72 year old women and 12 year old boys….. I am so sick of this garbage. call it like it is .. THUGS!! Sociopath THUGS!! put them behind bars forever!!

  5. But not the lack of black success…

  6. But not the lack of black success…

  7. I am happy to hear the African American leaders are taking a position against this horrible act, but it is really time for the African American community to look in the mirror and develop a strategy for themselves to emulate all of the immigrant groups who have come to the US and succeeded in one or two generations. How many generations since they were slaves? If you feel a sense of entitlement instead of responsibility you will never succeed and the result is this culture of violence and self defeat.

  8. Jane Smith says:

    This game is going on all across America and is being perpetrated against both Jews and white non-Jews. In 99 percent of the cases, the perpetrator is black. Purely and simply, it's because these are racial hate crimes and should be prosecuted as such. This idea that these kids are disadvantaged is a myth. In many cases, these kids are just out for kicks and they're racially profiling their victims. They're not sitting around discussing how the average Jewish family lives better than their own. The only thought put into this crime is the colour of the victim's skin. The media has been glossing over the race of the perpetrators for too long, and it's time to call it like it is. It's also time for the leaders of the black community to stand up and demand an end to this dangerous and disgraceful practice. If this were the reverse and whites were targeting blacks, there would be outrage and saturation media coverage. People are sick and tired of black Americans getting a pass on outrageous behaviour, simply because they're black. If this practice is allowed to continue without some serious consequences, it could start a violent race war. Afterall, that's what 0bama has been aiming for since he got elected.

  9. i have heard of this game Jane Smith..can you imagine?

  10. i have heard of this game Jane Smith..can you imagine?

  11. The headline is misleading. You don't know that the Eliot Spitzer that posted on Cumbo's FB page is the same fellow as the former NY governor or a different fellow with the same name or an alias. Former Governor Spitzer isn't from Brooklyn either like that FB poster. The posting is available on Cumbo's FB page your link to it worked. You have to read her entire piece. Understanding underlying causes may help craft effective solutions, but tachlis these perps have to be brought to justice.

  12. Yechiel Baum says:

    why not blame parents for failing to teach their children MORALITY AND RESPECT- HOW CAN THEY ASK FOR SAME IF THEY THEMSELVES HAVE NONE FOR OTHERS? Look at how the Blacks live peacefully and equally with the Jews in Israel. Obviously, it is an American failure of the black community and not anyone elses so they should stop blaming others.

  13. Cody Flecker says:

    The issues presented here are much more complex than posted. The real issue goes back at least 2000 years to the time of the Romans. Throughout 2000 years of history, every nation and empire on earth were afraid and still are afraid of the Jews. Ever since God gave the Torah to the Jewish People at Mt Sinai revealing the truth about life, people have been afraid of the Jewish People. So much so, that after one Holocaust after another, no one ever had the capacity to wipe out the Jews. Fast forward to today and we have the Black community. These people cannot figure out how to succeed in life. Even with a 50% Black President they cannot figure out what life is all about. So instead of getting an education, or learning a trade, they attack what they consider a weaker person, that of the Jew. One day these Black criminals will learn that no one can beat the Jews into submission, and for them to succeed in life, they will have to do what the Jews do, study, learn, and accomplish.

  14. Lori Lowenthal Marcus says:

    I included the link to her cached FB page so that people could read it, of course the full context is important.

  15. Anonymous says:

    This woman is an enabler. She is telling the Black youth that they are victims and thus not responsible for their behavior.

  16. Crime is crime. Deal with it. Don't make innuendos in the name of the criminals.

  17. Laura Greenberg says:

    I'm glad to hear that the people in Crown Heights are speaking up. I feel certain that the folks in the video are sincere, and will try to squash the situation now not later.

  18. AC Stubbs says:

    Is she admitting that some of her constituents are ignorant bigots? Yet how have we not assimilated? This was a back handed compliment=insult.

  19. Moses Kestenbaum ODA says:

    Lauri Cumbo’s brains is pretty twisted. Is this how she is starting her political term representing the jewish folks in her district? Blame the victim? Blame the jews? My message to you is, you will be up ****s creek very fast, if your incompetent just get out if dodge.

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