Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who represents Borough Park and Midwood, has issued an apology after dressing in blackface at a weekend celebration of Purim.
In a news conference on Monday, Hikind said, "It was not meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone in any fashion.”
Hikind, an Orthodox Jew, was heavily criticized by fellow politicians after darkening his skin and wearing an afro-style wig as part of a basketball player costume. He said none of the attendees at the 14-hour party expressed any concerns about his costume.
Purim is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the deliverance of the Jews from their enemies in the biblical Book of Esther.
The blackface photo surfaced on Sunday after Hikind's son posted the family's costumes on Facebook.
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“A lot of black leaders and clergy — elected officials, everyday citizens — were very upset or offended, and had a lot of questions as to, from their point of view, how could someone be so insensitive,” Brooklyn Assemblyman Karim Camara, who is black and represents parts of Crown Heights, Lefferts Gardens and East Flatbush, said in a New York Times article.
"I think it's sad. It's inappropriate. It's offensive," Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League told the Wall Street Journal in regards to the costume. "Of all things to come up with — blackface?"
Hikind initially defended his actions, saying, “The main objective that I have is not to be recognizable. Of course the intention was not to offend anyone. That’s the last thing that I ever imagined that would happen, to be very honest. It never crossed my mind."
He added, "A lot of people just don’t realize, on Purim, in a sense, forgive me for saying this, you do crazy stuff. It’s not done, God forbid, to laugh, to mock, to hurt, to pain anyone.”
During his apology, Hikind insisted that his blackface costume wasn't meant as a racist act. “I wasn’t doing a minstrel show … The intentions were as pure as anything that you have ever done that was pure."