Brooklyn, NY – The first Chasidic legislator ever to have been elected to statewide office anywhere in the United States admits to being exhausted after weeks of campaigning, despite running unopposed to win the right to represent the state’s 48th district in the New York State Assembly.
35 year old Simcha Eichenstein took his responsibilities as a candidate seriously, hitting the streets to speak with district residents and to listen to their concerns up until the final moments of the campaign.
“My mindset was that I had an election to win and I was out there this week, Sunday night in front of Landau’s meeting people, Monday night…” Eichenstein told VIN News. “You only run once for the first time and people want to get to know you. People have questions and I hope to be around to meet as many people as possible.
Eichenstein, who ran on both the Democratic and Conservative lines, walked away with 14,865 out of 15007 votes cast, according to the Board of Elections’ unofficial results.
He said that he considers it an honor to represent the 48th District in Albany and that he intends to give 110 percent daily, always maintaining an door open for constituents.
The father of four considers his first responsibility as a legislator to be a personal one.
“Given that I am who I am, a Chasidishe person from Borough Park, I need to remind myself every day how to conduct myself,” observed Eichenstein. “People will look at me and try to draw conclusions and I will need to make a kiddush Hashem on a daily basis. That is a huge responsibility and I take that very, very seriously.”
At the same time, Eichenstein doesn’t dwell on the fact that his election win was a historic one.
“I don’t make much of it,” said Eichenstein. “I look at myself as a legislator and if I am the first Chasidic one then so be it. This community is full of young, vibrant, civic minded individuals who are very involved and I am sure that I won’t be the last.”
Eichenstein looks ahead to building bridges with his fellow legislators, even those who may hold views that may differ from his on certain issues.
“We live in New York which is a very large state with a lot of different views and political opinions, but election season is over and we need to reach out, even to members who we are not always aligned with, and find common ground, even if we don’t agree on certain issues,” said Eichenstein. “There are many issues – housing, education, quality of life issues and jobs, and so many opportunities to do that.”
A former member of the de Blasio team, Eichenstein said that he knows he has his work cut out for him when it comes to busting stereotypes about the Chasidic community.
“We need our culture and our way of life to be better understood and that is something I will be working on,” said Eichenstein.
“We need to explain and to reach out to others, people who don’t understand our way of life, our yeshivos, our housing and our larger families, because for the most part we are different. What is considered a luxury to the rest of the world, a four bedroom unit, when you take into account a family of ten, it isn’t so luxurious anymore.”
Eichenstein said that his wife has been on board with his political aspirations despite the difficulties of spending so much time away from home.
“It’s not always easy being in Albany,” conceded Eichenstein. “You are out there where there is only one shul, with a very early minyan and there isn’t another one 15 minutes later.
You are virtually living on tuna and while I am looking forward to it, there is no doubt that there is sacrifice involved, although I can safely say that my wife is sacrificing more than I am.”
And the rest of his family?
“They have been very supportive and I believe they all voted for me,” quipped Eichenstein, adding quickly, “at least they said they did.”