Mrs. Frieda Hikind, who rebuilt her life after surviving the Holocaust and the loss of her entire family by establishing a family renowned for askanus and public service, passed away on Monday afternoon after a brief illness. She was 95.
The levayah is scheduled to take place at Shomrei Hadas chapels at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday.
Dov Hikind, Mrs. Hikind’s son and a New York Assemblyman representing Brooklyn, told Hamodia that his mother’s experiences in wartime Czechoslovakia and Auschwitz formed his political advocacy for the past 30 years.
From his earliest memories, he said, his mother was at the center of everything and that she never stopped talking about Hashem, Moshiach and shalom.
“I can’t believe my mother is not here anymore,” Mr. Hikind said, sobbing during a telephone interview an hour after his mother passed away.
“She always spoke about Moshiach, I mean always,” he said. “Moshiach was coming and she was going to be around for it.”
As walking got more difficult for her in recent months, Mrs. Hikind never allowed her son or anyone to help her walk. “Ich gei mit di Eibershter — I go with Hashem,” was her constant refrain.
She could not stand when she heard of machlokes among Yidden, her son said.
“My mother was a rodef shalom — Jews cannot fight,” Mr. Hikind paraphrased his mother.
Born in 1918 in a small Czechoslovakian town, one of eight children, Frieda was the only member of her family to survive the Second World War.
In an interview on her son’s Motzoei Shabbos radio show three years ago, Mrs. Hikind said that the memory of her mother, then 57, being pulled away from her to be sent to the gas chambers remained seared in her memory.
“We can’t allow Mommy to go herself,” several of her siblings said. Frieda was ultimately sent to Auschwitz but survived, while her parents and seven siblings — including one sister, a kallah scheduled to be married two weeks later — were killed.
But she said — and this is amplified in many of her son’s political causes over the years: that anti-Semitic rhetoric must be confronted before it turns into action — that when rumors abounded that the Nazis were sending deportees to be killed rather than for resettlement, nobody believed it.
“We didn’t believe that. We didn’t do anything bad. Who would believe that?” she said.
That interview, Mr. Hikind said, proved to be the most popular ever of his hosting career.
“In 14 years of doing the radio shows, this is the most requested tape ever,” he said. “Hundreds of people called requesting copies.”
Mrs. Hikind never stepped foot into the Capitol in Albany, where her son is a powerful member of the Assembly, but she occasionally accompanied him at press conferences denouncing anti-Semitism or Holocaust denial.
After Frieda came to the United States in 1947, she married her husband Meyer, “a heise Vizhnitzer Chassid,” Mr. Hikind said, and raised three sons together. It was a marriage of devotion toward each other and to the Klal.
“The biggest debates between my mother and father,” Mr. Hikind recalled, “were about how much to give” to tzedakah.
Reb Meyer Hikind, who ran a fruit store, was a fierce Chassid of all Vizhnitzer Rebbes, running to events for Vizhnitz in Monsey, Bnei Brak and Seret-Vizhnitz to donate and bask in the presence of fellow Chassidim.
Reb Meyer was niftar in 2000. His wife remained fiercely independent, living alone while entertaining a steady flow of guests and family members.
“She was everybody’s Babby,” Mr. Hikind said.
Mr. Hikind began his political career in the 1970s advocating on behalf of Soviet Jewry. Someone then told him that he had the ability to continue his activism through politics, a calling his mother was intensely proud of.
As long as he stayed on message.
“My mother was of course very, very proud,” he said, “but any time I did something controversial, my mother, who was a Holocaust survivor, was always very nervous. ‘Let someone else,’ [she would say]. ‘There are plenty of meshugoyim in the world. Why does it have to be you?’”
Mrs. Hikind suffered a massive stroke Wednesday and was hospitalized in Maimonides Medical Center in Boro Park. Asked by her son what he could bring for her to the hospital, she uttered her last word: “Dich — you.”
On Monday afternoon, shortly after 4:00 p.m., Mrs. Hikind passed away. She is survived by her three sons, Moshe, Dov and Pinchos, grandchildren and great-grandchildren loyal to her precepts and mourning her loss.
Shivah will be observed at 1779 E. 14, between Kings Highway and Avenue R until Monday morning.
Yehi zichrah baruch.