“I believe in the words of John F. Kennedy in which he spoke about the importance of service. I knew that running for the Assembly seat in the District was not going to be easy. But I wasn’t going to let that stop me. As we know, I won the District 38 seat and became the first South Asian woman to be elected to the New York State Assembly.”
Jenifer Rajkumar’s amazing feat broke the proverbial glass ceiling and opened the door for women and minorities. She won the seat with over 70 per cent of the votes. It is a responsibility that she takes seriously. Since winning the elections, Jenifer has visited several houses of worship, and other community organizations, to express her thanks and to outline her vision for the District. She has also met the rank and file in the community, and in her own charming and persuasive manner, she has won over many to her cause. She will take office in January 2021 in a community that welcomes change, and in a District that has a big immigrant population.
Jenifer Rajkumar was born in New York. Her family migrated to the United States from Punjab, in India. Both of her parents are doctors, and her brother Rahul is also a doctor. Jenifer attended the University of Pennsylvania for her undergraduate studies and Stanford University for her law degree. She said that her family made education the center of the household. After graduation, Jenifer became a civil rights attorney. She represented persons from a wide cross- section of the community that sought redress from discrimination. She then went to work for Governor Cuomo and advised on immigration for the State, among other matters.
Jenifer has a diverse District, that reflects America. What are her plans to improve conditions in the District? She wants to lead in the economic recovery in the District. One effective way to do so is to help small businesses and to have insurance companies cover the wages of workers that are affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. In the field of education, Jenifer says that she plans to make higher education affordable. She will also fight for after school programs. She singled out Abiba Dyuti, from Richmond Hill High School, who was the first student from that school to attend Harvard University. She credits the young people for being the driving force in her campaign and promises to work with them. They were passionate about change and her campaign was like a big tent that had room for all. Jenifer was able to increase the turnout in her District and she won by over 700 votes over her opponent, Mike Miller.
The future looks promising for Jenifer. She assumes office at a time when women are enjoying a high profile in politics. She says that she would like to stay in public service and to be the best Assemblywoman that she could possibly be in the District. One of her immediate tasks will be to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. She plans to set up help lines that would reach out to minorities so they could come forward and be tested and to make sure that the vaccines are given to those that need them. There will also be doctors and counselors on the phone to talk to people that are suffering from Covid-19.
On the rare occasions when Jenifer is not working, she loves to sing karaoke to Bollywood and Western songs and to watch opera. One of her favorite operas is ‘Carmen’ and how could one not like the Three Tenors? Jenifer is a fitness buff; she believes in health and wellness and she works out often. What is her advice to the young people of the community?
Jenifer says that, “young people should take the initiative. They can do anything if they put their minds to it. They were an important part of my campaign and I thank them. Many said they were inspired by my campaign. When you take a small action and get involved, you never know where it will take you. I did that when I was sixteen, and today I am elected to the State Assembly.”
Jenifer pays tribute to those that have been before her and lead the way. They include her parents, suffragette Alice Paul who built upon the movement that was started by Susan B. Anthony. The movement required courage and determination in the face of great odds, a picture that could sum up the fight by Jenifer to win her Assembly seat. She wants people to know that her victory belongs to them. It was a people’s victory. We wish Jenifer well and we are confident that she will make the community proud. For her dedication, hard work, inclusion and vision, and for conquering the odds in becoming the first South Asian to be elected to the to the New York State Assembly, we are proud to name Jenifer Rajkumar as our PROFILE OF THE YEAR 2020.