This week, a Crown Heights councilwoman wrote a long open letter positing that recent "knockout" attacks against Jews might be due to long-simmering tensions and mistrust between Blacks and Jews in the neighborhood. Councilwoman-elect Laurie Cumbo, who takes office in Crown Heights in January, wrote that some of her constituents feel "the accomplishments of the Jewish community triggers feelings of resentment, and a sense that Jewish success is not also their success." Now she's being criticized by Jewish leaders for some aspects of her essay: "Some of your comments were downright counter-productive," wrote Assemblyman Dov Hikind.

"Expressing, as you have, a sympathy for those who hold the success of the Jewish community in contempt—as a success “not their own”—almost rings as an apology for those who are committing violent crimes as a response to their resentment," he continued in his response. "Identifying members of the community as “Jewish landlords” is a stereotype with profound negative connotations."

The Anti-Defamation League called her letter troubling and said it “evokes classic anti-Semitic stereotypes.” Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for ­Ethnic Understanding, agreed, arguing that the comments were “groundless and baseless.” “We need to take a step back and choose our words carefully,” he added.

Cumbo explained that she was relating things local residents told her, and the essay was intended to clear up confusion, to avoid divisiveness, and to bring into the open issues that won't go away by ignoring them. But Commentary Magazine thinks she's trying to have it both ways, summing up her argument thusly:

Jews are crowding out black people in Crown Heights, they are stoking resentment because of their financial success, and while there can be no justification for acts of violence, it’s a terrible pain for someone like Cumbo to say those perpetrating the violence should be arrested because they are victims too. Such textbook apologetics and excuses for crime hearken back to a different and far worse time for New York City, as does the nauseating stench of Cumbo’s classic anti-Semitic stew.

It's worth noting that Cumbo's open letter was much more even-handed than her initial comments on the "knockout" game, which were made to the Jewish Weekly at the end of November. In those comments, she unwisely invoked the anti-Semitic stereotype of Jews with "bags of money" to describe feelings of resentment in the neighborhood.

The blacks of Crown Heights have “grievances,” that most haunted of urban words. Laurie Cumbo, 38, who is black and newly elected to the City Council representing part of Crown Heights, told us that when she was campaigning she heard many in the African-American and Caribbean community complaining that “Many of the buildings are owned by the Jewish community and [black tenants felt] there was a deliberate movement to push them out of their homes. What they would say to me is [the Jews are] doing this, not fixing that, making noise, they’re trying to push me out.’

“They tell me, ‘You better do something about this.’ They fear an ultimate takeover,” Cumbo continues. “Many [blacks living in private homes] talk about how proud they are, that no matter how many ‘bags of money’ were brought to their doors [by Jews] to buy their homes, they’re not selling.”

Young blacks might be picking up on the resentment. “It may be one of those things,” says Cumbo, “that when they come home their parents are talking, ‘those damn Jews,’ not that they’re talking to the kids but kids hear.”