New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) announced this morning that he will not be seeking another term of office. The announcement was part of a short video that looks back on Hikind’s unparalleled four decades of community service and ceaseless activism, including his 36 years in the New York State Assembly.
Born June 30, 1950, Hikind grew up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where his father was a devout follower of the Vizhnitz Hasidic dynasty. As a follower of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, Hikind spent the late 1960s and 1970s actively fighting against anti-Semitism, working to free Soviet Jews and Syrian Jews, and fighting to help Jewish poor. These early years of intense activism were mirrored throughout his storied career as an elected official. Hikind never limited his ‘job’ to local issues and the typical role of a legislator. He felt responsible for helping every Jew, no matter where they could be found.
Hikind was first elected to represent Brooklyn’s 48th Assembly District in 1983 and has remained a popular champion for his constituents. He is highly regarded not only in New York but also throughout the world for his relentless fight against racism, discrimination, Holocaust denial, and human rights violations. “Whether it’s in Brooklyn, Albany, Monsey, Lakewood, Europe or even Gush Katif in Israel, Dov Hikind is always found fighting on the front lines, raising his voice whenever there is injustice, or leading the charge when change is needed,” noted Hikind’s biographer.
For decades, Hikind’s office has been a reflection of Dov’s deep commitment to helping others and his own limitless energy. People throughout his district—and indeed, throughout New York—speak of Hikind’s unparalleled constituent services. “It doesn’t matter how small you think a problem is,” he always told his staff. “When someone has a problem, that problem is HUGE to them. We can’t solve every problem, but we always have to try.” He embodies the Hebrew expression Lifnei meshuras ha’din (making sure to always go the extra mile). This has been his mantra since first taking office. This sincere caring for neighbors and his community has resulted in an endless parade of people seeking assistance from the Assemblyman. “If someone has a problem, I say, ‘Go to Dov.’ These are words spoken regularly throughout Brooklyn by young and old alike.
And it wasn’t just about everyday problems. Dov Hikind has never shied away from controversial issues. He was the first elected official in his community to highlight the problem of kids at risk and enlisted the help of former NY Governor George Pataki in convening a task force for the state and local community groups to work in tandem to tackle this issue.
Hikind was also the first elected official in his community to speak out about sexual abuse and to fight to protect victims and prevent further incidents.
More recently, Hikind initiated a campaign to ensure that no child is ever again excluded from a yeshiva education.
“Dov throws himself into solving problems because he genuinely feels other people’s pain,” said his biographer. “People come to him because they are suffering and Dov suffers with them. He makes it his business to get to the bottom of issues; to find solutions for the many and for the individual. This is what he lives for.”
This commitment to making a difference goes far beyond his district—and far beyond New York. When Jews were being stabbed on the streets of Israel during the Intifada, Dov immediately flew to Israel to walk the streets of Jerusalem and raise people’s spirits. When missiles began raining down from Gaza on Israeli communities, Dov went to Israel to live in the bomb shelters with the Israelis under attack. “They are shooting at Jews?” Dov asked. “I’m a Jew!”
“Working for Dov has often placed me in a state of embarrassment,” said Yehudah Meth, Hikind’s Director of Communications. “When you are around Dov, you immediately ask yourself why you’re not doing more to help people in need. He inspires all of us to do more, to make a difference, constantly.”
“After so many years in office, you’d think someone would slow down,” said Marc Kronenberg, his chief of staff for 16 years. “That never happened. Every day was as if he had just been elected and was just getting started. Dov never rests and never coasts. He’s genuinely a public servant in every sense of the word. I have never come across an elected official who can emotionally connect with people on the level that he does. He brings a whole new meaning to the word empathy. That is what endears him to so many people.”
With anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment continuing to rise to historically dangerous levels globally, Dov’s position on the front lines of advocacy for the State of Israel and the Jewish people remains vital. Consequently, while he is not seeking elected office again at this time, Dov has no intention of “retiring” or giving up the fight.
“I am excited about my future—there is still so much to be done,” Hikind said. “But before I can start the next chapter of my life, I intend to finish my term in the Assembly.
“I want to thank my constituents—my many friends and neighbors—for these extraordinary 36 years of having the honor to serve them. I thank my parents for instilling genuine Jewish values in me, and my family—my wife Shani and my children—for making it possible to do what I do. But most of all I thank G-d for giving me the strength to allow me to make a difference. That’s what it’s all about, and that’s what I intend to continue doing, hopefully for many decades to come.”