After Lazar Loss, Dov Hikind May Be Next Target Among Brooklyn Jews


dov-hikindChris Bragg reports at City Hall News: On the day after David Greenfield’s stunning 18-point special election victory over Joe Lazar, leaders in the Hasidic community of Boro Park were already making calls about the elections this November.
But they were not looking for a candidate to run against Greenfield-though he will have to run again for the Council seat he just won.

Instead, these leaders were gauging the interest in running a Hasidic candidate against Assembly Member Dov Hikind, the longtime Orthodox Jewish powerbroker who strongly backed Lazar, according to an individual who has been approached by multiple people about running against Hikind.

“The question everyone is asking today is: Who is running against Dov?” the person said.

Leaders of Hasidic social-services and religious groups are angry about being strong-armed into endorsing Lazar under the threat of losing funding from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Hikind ally, the person said.

During the Council campaign, meanwhile, younger voters proved to be independent of the religious and yeshiva leaders who lent their support to Lazar, finding new means of mobilizing through technology such as text messaging.

If the community could find someone from the Hasidic community who had political connections like David Greenfield-who knocked on 12,000 doors during the campaign-perhaps it could topple Hikind, say local political operatives.

Mark Botnick, Greenfield’s campaign manager, said the Council campaign proved that Hikind could be beaten.

“I think he’s clearly vulnerable,” Botnick said.

Hikind did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Hikind remains formidable. He still has $1.4 million in his campaign account. His member items also give him a foothold in the community: Last year alone, he doled out $2.2 million.

Though Hikind and Greenfield have a contentious relationship, those close to Greenfield say there is virtually no chance he would spearhead his own effort to get a candidate against Hikind this fall or anytime in the near future.

A more likely target for Greenfield is Assembly Member Steven Cymbrowitz, who represents a district covering the Sephardic community-for whom Greenfield has served as a political liaison the past five years, and which still serves as Greenfield’s political base. Greenfield is also said to have a genuine disdain for Cymbrowitz, according to people close to him.

The bigger question surrounding Hikind, observers say, is whether he will continue to wield the kind of clout that has made a trip to Boro Park a necessary stop for any candidate running for citywide or statewide office in the past two decades.

In two recent elections, Hikind’s preferred candidates have not done particularly well in Boro Park. In 2008, he backed Kevin Parker, who won his race but lost big in the neighborhood to then-Council Member Simcha Felder. In 2009, the same scenario played out in the adjacent Council district when Brad Lander, who secured Hikind’s endorsement early on, won the seat despite performing in the teens in Boro Park. These defeats could be explained away-the candidates came from other neighborhoods and did not share the values of the largely Orthodox community there. Plus, both candidates ultimately won their races.

This time, though, the contest was between two Orthodox Jews-and Hikind still could not deliver a majority of votes in Boro Park.

In the future, will someone like Comptroller John Liu stick his neck out to endorse Hikind’s candidate, simply because Hikind had endorsed him during the comptroller’s race?

Yosef Rapaport, the political editor of the prominent Jewish newspaper Hamodia, says probably not.

“The real powerbrokers now are the Sephardics,” Rapaport said. “The Hasidic community is totally divided in two.”

In backing Lazar over Greenfield, Hikind may have dredged up animosity among this group, which could cause problems for him down the road.

But Rapaport argued that young people in Boro Park fail to understand the rationale behind the way Hikind operates.

As a politically conservative religious community stuck in the middle of a liberal, secular city, the kind of deal-making and horse-trading Hikind engages in are necessary to get the resources the community needs, Rapaport argued.

With the younger generation increasingly able to get information on these kinds of maneuvers on popular Jewish blogs like Yeshiva World, the backroom deals are now suddenly out in the open. During the campaign, the attention given to Hikind’s attempts to narrow the field of candidates that would run against Greenfield fed into this perception.

Still, Rapaport believes this new level of transparency and a desire for cleaner government from the younger generation could have negative consequences.

“They don’t pay deference to their own determent,” Rapaport said. “They don’t understand that this is how the sausage is made.”

As Hikind tries to look past the results of the Council election, he must do so in a neighborhood that has undergone rapid change since he was first elected in 1983. The Conservative Orthodox population that was once the majority of Boro Park has made an exodus to the suburbs in recent decades as the ultra- Orthodox Hasidic population has grown.

Hikind’s profile, too, has grown in some respects in recent years. He has become one of New York’s best-known defenders of Israel, and his frequent trips there garner international-news attention. But critics say there is a perception afoot that he has become more loyal to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu than to his constituents.

Ezra Friedlander, the CEO of the consulting and lobbying firm The Friedlander Group, said that Hikind’s real problem is that because he has been the undisputed leader of Boro Park for so long, he has not felt the need to promote his accomplishments.

He has not faced a competitive election in decades, and his name recognition in the neighborhood is not what it once was.

Friedlander suggested Hikind go on a public relations blitz to let the younger generation know of all the things he is doing to help the community.

“Does he toot his own horn? Not enough,” Friedlander said. “This is the age of Twitter and Facebook. He needs to find the Hasidic equivalent of that.”

{City Hall News/ Newscenter}


  1. “Does he toot his own horn? Not enough,”???!!! He doesn’t stop tooting his own horn! Friedlander does not know or see reality?

  2. I’d like to know how they know that David Greenfield’s win was due to “younger voters independent of the religious and yeshiva leaders who lent their support to Lazar”. Nobody did this kind of analysis this is just street talk…

  3. Cymbrowitz only got in because his wife passed away and people had Rachmanut on him. He didn’t earn his way in. So don’t make this out as if anyone is scared, politicly, of Cymbrowitz! EVERYONE is replaceable!

  4. It wasnt “young voters who are independent of religios leaders”. It was everybody who heard the askonim saying how they were threatend by Hikind and Co. by not geting the much needed programs for Kimcha Dipescha.