N.Y. councilwoman-elect apologizes for knockout game remarks

(JTA) — An incoming New York City councilwoman apologized for saying that the wave of so-called knockout attacks may be caused by tension between blacks and Jews.

Laurie Cumbo, who will take office next month representing the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, in a statement on Tuesday said, “I sincerely apologize to all of my constituents for any pain that I have caused by what I wrote.”

Cumbo wrote: “I want to build bridges and bring people together and so I especially regret that my comments on the recent violent incidents in Crown Heights were offensive to my constituents,” Cumbo said. “My intent was to stimulate dialogue on an important issue, but in repeating stereotypes, part of what I wrote emphasized the divisions between people, instead of bringing them together.

“I have taken the last week to reflect, evaluate and meet with Jewish, African American and Caribbean leaders all across New York City, and I understand now that my words did not convey what was in my heart, which is a profound desire to bring our diverse communities closer together.”

Cumbo in a Facebook post earlier this month called for a zero-tolerance policy toward the “knockout game” and for strengthening the relationship between African-Americans and Jews.

In the game, attackers try to knock out someone with one punch. At least one dozen such attacks have taken place in Brooklyn since September, most directed at identifiably Jewish people, according to reports.

In the Facebook post, she said in discussions with local residents during the primary season, “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.”

The councilwoman-elect said she did not mean to bring up the issue “as an insult to the Jewish community, but rather to 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.”

Cumbo stressed her admiration for the Jewish community. However, she added, “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.”

Her apology was welcomed by the Anti-Defamation League, which had criticized the Facebook post as “evok(ing) classic anti-Semitic stereotypes,” as well as New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn).

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