The Rep. Anthony Weiner bonanza; redistricting; and the impending retirement of Rep. Gary Ackerman have raised the possibility that New York City will go from having had four Jewish U.S. congressmen one year ago to only two (or, under a less likely scenario, one). Moreover, if Rory Lancman fails to defeat Grace Meng in the Democratic primary for Ackerman’s old seat, there will be no Jewish congressmen from Queens, and only Rep. Jerrold Nadler’s gerrymandered slice of Borough Park will maintain Jewish representation of Brooklyn in the House of Representatives.
Dov Hikind, a state assemblyman from Borough Park since 1982, seemed like a good person to speak with about this situation. A Democratic Orthodox Jew, he backed Rep. Bob Turner, the non-Jewish Republican, over David Weprin to replace Weiner in the soon-to-be-defunct Ninth District, for much the same reason as Hizzoner Ed Koch: to send a message to President Obama on Israel.
Hikind sounded a similar note yesterday. “It’s not just that we need a Moskowitz there,” he said—maybe or maybe not intentionally using the Jewish surname of the current Brooklyn borough president. “It’s having a real friend. And sometimes, not all people who happen to be Jewish, as far as I’m concerned, are real friends.”
Of Lancman, he opined, “There’s no question on his record, his outspokenness, his willingness to stand up for relations between Israel and the United States. He is as solid as they come.”
As examples of Jews who were not necessarily “real friends,” Hikind cited several Jewish Democratic congresspersons (none from New York) who last week signed a J Street-backed letter calling on the administration to push for a two-state solution. “I want a person there who’s committed,” he continued, “who goes beyond the call of duty, who understands the significance of the relationship between the United States and Israel, who understands that Israel finds herself surrounded by neighbors who are enemies.”
Hikind has not endorsed anybody in the primary to replace Ackerman, though his fellow assemblyman Lancman has asked for his backing. “Lancman is fabulous when it comes to Israel,” Hikind said. “Nobody has to give him a crash course on what the situation is in the Middle East. He has a record of speaking out—not being afraid of being critical of even a Democratic president.” (Lancman said of Obama last month, “I haven’t been pleased or satisfied with his policies or views on Israel.”)
Hikind added, “Lancman understands the Jewish community in his heart. From Israel to a lot of other issues, he’s a solid guy. He really understands.”
Does Meng, his Queens Democratic Party-backed opponent, share Lancman’s understanding?
“You’d have to talk to her,” Hikind replied.
To be continued …
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.