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Jewish mayoral candidate targeted in shooting says his campaign is ‘guided by tikkun olam’

A leading Louisville mayoral candidate targeted in a shooting Monday is an active member of the city’s Jewish community, the former CEO of a hotel chain and the new co-owner of a company that promotes up-and-coming pro wrestlers.

Craig Greenberg, 48, was meeting with four campaign staffers Monday when a man walked in and, wordlessly and unprompted, opened fire. The shots left five bullet holes in the wall and one in Greenberg’s sweater — but no one in the room was struck.

A campaign staffer described the near miss as “a miracle.”

The suspect, Quintez Brown, 21, has been active in the local Black Lives Matter chapter and has worked with gun violence prevention groups. He was charged with attempted murder and four counts of wanton endangerment. Several people who know him have told news outlets he suffers from mental illness. Black Lives Matter Louisville, together with the BLM-run Louisville Community Bail Fund, paid his $100,000 bail, but Brown is not permitted to leave his home.

Greenberg, a Harvard Law School graduate, has said he feels lucky to have survived the shooting, and that he is eager to focus on the issues that inspired him to run for mayor. His campaign website lists addressing systemic racism and pursuing “a more just Louisville” as two areas on which he would focus. And it makes his Jewish heritage plain.

“When Craig was bar mitzvahed at age 13, he read a passage from Deuteronomy 16:20 which began, ‘Justice, justice shall you pursue,’” the bio on his website reads. “Craig’s grandparents fled Germany due to the threat of the Holocaust and came to America seeking freedom, safety, and opportunity.”

Greenberg told the Forward that Judaism has been important to him and his family “our whole life.”

He continued: “I have been involved in various Jewish organizations throughout. And I’ve talked a lot during the campaign about being guided by tikkun olam, and that simple but powerful concept of repairing the world.”

A motive?

Greenberg, a married father of two boys, has declined to comment on speculation that he was targeted because he was Jewish, a possibility raised by Louisville Police Chief Erika Shields.

“Mr. Greenberg is Jewish, so there’s that,” she said, speaking of Brown’s motive. “We don’t know if it’s tied to the candidate, is political, or are we dealing with someone who has mental issues, is venomous. We have to really keep an open mind and be diligent in taking care of our community.”

A campaign staffer described the near-miss as “a miracle.”

Greenberg told the Forward he’s still processing what unfolded in a roughly 15 seconds on Monday.

“It’s surreal for me and my teammates who were there,” he said. “And it’s surreal for my family members, particularly given that this has played out in the public.”

quintez brown

Quintez Brown, the alleged shooter in the attack on Craig Greenberg, at his arraignment Monday. Brown was released on $100,000 bail. Courtesy of Screenshot/WHAS11.com

Even without a motive for the shooting, the attack on Greenberg rattled the Louisville Jewish community, in which he is well-known.

The town has seen an uptick in antisemitic incidents in recent years, and Jews throughout the country remain on edge one month after a hostage crisis unfolded at a Reform synagogue in Texas.

The head of the Louisville Jewish Federation, Sara Wagner, described Greenberg as a proud product of the Jewish community who was involved in BBYO as a teenager and later became a member of the local Jewish Community Center board. She said Greenberg’s sister works for the Federation.

“I think everyone was really frightened and shocked, because we know his family,” Wagner said.

While she also did not want to speculate about the shooter’s motive, she said in the past two years antisemitism has become an increasingly frequent topic of conversation as incidents of vandalism and hate speech increased.

A contender

craig greenberg

Craig Greenberg. Courtesy of Craig Greenberg

Even before Monday’s attack, Greenberg stood out as a candidate to succeed term-limited Mayor Greg Fischer. Like Fischer, Greenberg is a Democrat. The party has held a lock on the mayor’s office for more than half a century.

Greenberg is well-connected in Louisville. A former University of Louisville trustee, he founded a Louisville-based company, 21c Museum Hotels, which grew to more than 1,100 employees, according to his campaign website. Last month, he became the co-owner of Ohio Valley Wrestling, which also includes a wrestling school.

Greenberg jumped out to an early lead in fundraising and announced endorsements from several city council members last week.

In his campaign video, he is running through the streets of the city, and talks about participating in marathons and 5K races. “Now I’m running for mayor,” he says, and promises “over the coming weeks and months, I’m going to run through every neighborhood in Louisville, all 635 precincts.”

Brown noticed Greenberg’s candidacy gathering momentum.

An account apparently belonging to Brown, who last year declared his intent to run for Louisville city council, greeted news of Greenberg’s endorsements with a tweet: “Dollar Democracy?” Three minutes later, the account tweeted again: “Neoliberalism putting up Tom Brady numbers in Louisville,” with a face-palm emoji.

Brown’s activism seems to stretch back several years. In 2019, he was invited to a summit with former President Barack Obama for young Black leaders. He also wrote a recurring opinion column for the Louisville Courier-Journal about race and social justice.

The bail question

Some Louisvillians have questioned Brown’s bail, which they argued was too low given that he was charged with trying to kill Greenberg.

Brian Butler, a Louisville trial attorney, said that in Kentucky, only suspects charged with capital murder can be denied bail, but that the bail was “probably lower than it should have been.”

Because there is no bail schedule in Kentucky, the amount is left up to the judge to determine based on flight risk and danger posed to the community.

In a statement on the attack posted Thursday morning, Greenberg said “our criminal justice system is clearly broken.”

“It is nearly impossible to believe that someone can attempt murder on Monday and walk out of jail on Wednesday,” he said. “If someone is struggling with a mental illness and is in custody, they should be evaluated and treated in custody. We must work together to fix this system.”

He also expressed unease in an interview with local radio host Terry Meiners on Tuesday.

“I am concerned about my team and my family’s safety, and my safety, and we’ll be taking precautions for the duration of this campaign to ensure that everyone associated with us is safe.”

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