CROWN HEIGHTS - Leaders of Crown Heights’ Jewish and African-American communities met Tuesday morning in a show of solidarity over a surge in race attacks against Jews over the past few months.
Elected officials, educators, and community leaders gathered in the hall of Lubavitcher Yeshiva for a breakfast and roundtable conversation about youth and race, even as another attack was reported, this time in nearby Midwood.
Jewish residents are anxious about the increase in crime, especially given the history of the infamous riots in the neighborhood 22 years ago. About ten serious incidents occurred over the past two months, in which a group of African-American teens quickly attack a Jew, knock him or her to the ground, and then make their getaway.
Councilman David Greenfield and Councilman-elect Chaim Deutsch, along with Public Advocate-elect Letitia James, announced that they were offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any individuals responsible for the knockout attacks.
The people present at the meeting included Brooklyn Borough Pres. Marty Markowitz; City Comptroller-elect Scott Stringer; David Lobl of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office; Fred Kreizman of Mayor Bloomberg’s office; Assemblyman Dov Hikind; Councilmen Mathieu Eugene, Darlene Mealy and David Greenfield; Councilmen-elect Chaim Deutsch and Laurie Cumbo; Commanding Officer of Brooklyn South Patrol Borough Owen J. Monaghan; Commanding Officer of the 71st Precinct George Fitzgibbon; Captain Mark Magrone of the Hate Crimes Task Force; David Pollack and Bob Kaplan of the Jewish Community Relations Council; John Flateau, Vice President of Medgar Evers College; Richard Green of the Crown Heights Youth Collective; several representatives of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council; Yaacov Behrman of the Jewish Future Alliance and Devorah Halberstam of the Jewish Children’s Museum.
“Any violence on any member of our community will not be tolerated,” Markowitz said. “And the message must be delivered to our youth that they must respect and celebrate the diversity that they are fortunate to be a part of in the Crown Heights community. Furthermore, any youth that are apprehended will be subject to the full extent of the law as a motivation for them to show respect.”
Charlene Gayle, a business owner and resident of the community, opened the conversation and stressed the importance of coming together. “The mindset of the youths involved in these violent acts must be changed. Community engagement is imperative to accomplish this,” she said.
Zaki Tamir, Chairman of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, said: “Most of the attacks have been by young people on young people. We need to find ways to get the message out to our youth that violence destroys a community, and that being involved in a bias attack can get a person in serious trouble and destroy their life.”
Cumbo suggested that the black and Jewish communities each learn about the history of the other as a way of bringing them together.
Meanwhile, Hikind said in a press release Tuesday that he found out after the meeting that an elderly woman in his district was punched in the head on Shabbos.
“This innocent woman is 78 and she is lucky to still be alive after such a vicious assault,” Hikind said. “To make matters worse, she was too afraid to even go to the police.” Hikind alerted Commander Michael Deddo of the 66th Precinct to the attack, which took place near Friends Field on East 5th St. and Avenue L. She was approached by an African-American male who she said was approximately 20 years old. The man said nothing, hit her in the head, and left.