Crown Heights Residents Nervous at Spike in Anti-Semitism

NEW YORK -

A spurt in anti-Semitic incidents in Crown Heights has Jews worried, with some calling on the police department to step up patrols in the neighborhood where Jewish and African-American communities have been living side by side uneasily for decades.

Rabbi Yaacov Behrman, executive director of the Jewish Future Alliance, acknowledged police efforts but said that residents are fearful since no arrests have yet been made in seven attacks on Jews — including two high profile assaults in just the past week — that were plainly racial.

“Although we salute the hard work of the NYPD and acknowledge that they seem to be taking these incidents seriously,” Rabbi Behrman said in a statement, “we are extremely disappointed that no arrests have been in any of these seven incidents.”

Jewish-black relations hit a nadir during the Crown Heights riots 22 years ago. While efforts by leaders of both communities have made considerable strides in rapprochement, the large number of unemployed youths who hang out has made for a tense relationship.

Now, community officials say, a new game called “knockout” has rapidly caught on among black youths since September. A gang approaches a Jew, gives him a quick beating and moves on to their next target.

“They’re playing a game: ‘knockout.’ ‘Knock out the Jew,’ maybe. And they’re going around the neighborhood punching Jews,” Rabbi Behrman said.

The most recent anti-Semitic attack occurred on Sunday night, when a gang of African American males punched a 20-year-old Jew in the head as he was walking on Kingston Ave. and Crown Street.

“The attack was unprovoked and nothing was stolen,” Rabbi Behrman emphasized.

Last week, on Wednesday afternoon, a 12-year-old Jewish boy was attacked on President Street and Brooklyn Ave. by a gang of approximately 15 African-American teens. Two of them approached the boy and punched him in the face, knocking him to the ground.

The attackers ran back to their group screaming, “We got him.” The entire group then broke it into a raucous cheer.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the Hate Crimes Task Force was looking into the two assaults, as well as three previous acts of graffiti vandalism and a claim of verbal harassment. But he did yet not want to call the incidents a pattern.

“It is difficult to tell at this time,” Kelly told reporters Tuesday. “Obviously, some of it is based on descriptions. The crowds change in size, so it’s hard to tell if it is a clear pattern.”

Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Brooklyn Democrat who represents a nearby district, met with community leaders and called Wednesday on police to reinforce patrols.

“There are no ‘minor’ anti-Semitic incidents,” Hikind said. “Allowing adults and children to be assaulted without a serious response from law enforcement sends the wrong message and opens up innocent people to more attacks. This must stop and be dealt with immediately.”