July 13, 2024
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July 13, 2024
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Former New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind Rallies Community to Fight Anti-Semitism

Former New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind is a “proud Jew” who has spent his life fighting anti-Semitism, but the last year is something he never could have imagined.

During that time and in the preceding year, anti-Semitic incidents have spiraled throughout the U.S., particularly in the New York Metropolitan Area, at an alarming rate.

“I am here to tell you in my lifetime I have never witnessed what is going on in New York and New Jersey,” he told about 35 local residents March 1, gathered at the Edison home of Neer and Lynn Even-Hen where Hikind had come to promote the organization he founded, Americans Against Antisemitism (AAA).

The grassroots organization is Hikind’s response to disturbing FBI statics that showed that in 2018, a year in which religion-based hate crimes dropped overall by 8%, Jews and Jewish institutions were the leading target of such crimes, despite Jews making up just more than 2% of the national population.

Although the statistics for 2019 are not yet finalized, the Anti-Defamation League said it appears they will show another 20% increase.

Hikind reeled off a list of frightening attacks including deadly incidents at a kosher supermarket in Jersey City and during Chanukah at a rabbi’s Monsey home. Equally disturbing are the routine incidents, often captured on surveillance cameras, of observant Jews walking along New York City streets being attacked for no reason other than because they are Jews.

New York Police Department statistics from 2019 show there were 234 anti-Semitic crimes, an increase of 72 during 2018, with a particular surge in Manhattan and the Bronx.

Hikind said identifiable Jews in in such traditional Jewish enclaves as Borough Park, Brooklyn have told him they are afraid to walk in public. Jewish college students are afraid to wear Stars of David necklaces on campus out of fear.

“This is the greatest country in the world,” said Hikind. “As Jews we should not be afraid. I encourage people to not take off their Stars of David and never take off that yarmulke.”

Hikind spoke forcefully of shocking incidents that have been brought to his attention, including someone sitting down next to a Sephardic Jew on a New York bench and saying “Heil Hitler” or mothers who have told him they are afraid to let their children go to a Friday night tish with their rabbi.

Then there was the case of a man walking down a Manhattan street looking at his phone when ”he was belted” by an individual who continued to kick him and yell anti-Semitic expletives as he lay on the ground, losing consciousness. Although the perpetrator was quickly arrested, the victim chose to call AAA for help rather than a politician after receiving a call from an assistant district attorney telling him as he lay in the hospital that his attacker would be out within an hour.

Hikind said AAA quickly publicized the incident, garnering attention from such major news outlets as CNN. Instead of being freed the perpetrator was kept in jail and was recently offered a plea deal of five years for his crime.

AAA, in its short existence, has formed chapters across the country, bringing together a broad coalition of both Jews and non-Jews united in their desire to stem the rising tide of anti-Semitism.

“When I left the legislature, I had plans not to create a new organization, said Hikind, who left office in December 2018. “But week after week we saw these incidents grow with people being beaten and assaulted in the street. When you look at these videos you can’t help but think this is something we thought was in the past.”

He described the sense of violation he himself felt years ago when he came out and found his car vandalized, adding, “Think of how someone feels walking down the street and being assaulted and called a ‘f***ing Jew…think about the pain.”

“When a Jew is assaulted I take it to heart,” said Hikind, who was associated with the Jewish Defense League, whose mission statement is ‘to protect Jews from anti-Semitism by whatever means necessary,” but is considered by some to be a radical organization. “I have no problem rocking the boat.”

Although a Democrat, Hikind admitted to having run-in with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio over their handling of anti-Semitic incidents.

“I am a Democrat and not a Republican, but first I am a Jew,” said Hikind whose principles have seen him “endorse more Republicans than any other Democrat” when Jewish interests were at stake.

When Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib retweeted a “blood libel” in January from Palestinian spokesperson Hanan Ashwari accusing Israeli settlers of kidnapping and killing a Palestinian child in Jerusalem, Hikind confronted her about it last month when she appeared at a conference sponsored by Muslims4Peace at Rutgers University.

The tweet was later proved false, and after confronting Tlaib about her anti-Semitism, he was escorted from the room by security.

Neer Even-Hen said he hosted Hikind because “it is such an important issue in the Jewish community to become aware of. If Jews are not going to defend their right to live free of anti-Semitism, how can we expect anybody else to?” he asked.

By Debra Rubin


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