web analytics
April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
News & Views
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Home » News & Views » US »

Sen. Lautenberg Remembered As ‘Lifesaver’ For Russian Jews

Frank Lautenberg

Frank Lautenberg

Share Button

Washington – New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg whose signature law facilitated a flood of Soviet Jewish emigration just prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, died Monday morning of viral pneumonia after serving for more than thirty years in Washington.

Those who were closest to the 89-year-old Democrat said the law that had the most meaning for him was the one that bears his name.

The Lautenberg Amendment, passed in 1989 and enacted in 1990, facilitated the emigration of Soviet Jews by relaxing the stringent standards for refugee status, granting immigrant status to those who could show religious persecution in their native lands.

At a tribute in New York to Lautenberg last week hosted by Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, Lautenberg’s wife, Bonnie, called the amendment his “proudest achievement.” Bonnie Lautenberg accepted the award in his stead because the senator was too ill to attend.

Mark Hetfield, the president of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the leading Jewish immigrant advocacy group, said Lautenberg’s final legacy may be making his amendment permanent.

The amendment now requires renewal every year, and at times has been threatened when Congress cannot agree on a budget, as was the case this year.

An amendment authored by Lautenberg to the immigration overhaul now under consideration in Congress would allow the president to fund the Lautenberg provisions without congressional approval. The amendment was part of a package approved last month by the Judiciary Committee, and the odds are that the full bill will pass.

“The law has been a lifesaver for hundreds of thousands of people who have fled religious persecution,” Hetfield said.

“When he became involved in electoral Jewish politics, he didn’t forget his Jewish involvement,” said Mark Levin, the director of NCSJ, formerly the National Council of Soviet Jewry. “He became one of the leading advocates for Jews in the Soviet Union.”

Another far-reaching law that bears the name of the New Jersey Democrat passed in 1996, banning the sales of guns to those convicted of domestic violence.

Lautenberg grew up in Paterson, N.J., the son of poor Jewish immigrants from Poland and Russia. He liked to say his parents “could not pass on valuables, but left me a legacy of values,” according to a release from his office.

He served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps in World War II and then earned a degree in economics at Columbia University through the G.I. Bill. The role of government in giving a poor kid from Paterson a shot at an Ivy League education undergirded Lautenberg’s subsequent commitment to social justice.

He started Automatic Data Processing and built it into the largest data processing firm in the world by 1974, when he became chairman of the United Jewish Appeal. Within a year Lautenberg had increased its charitable intake to the second-highest level in its history — an extraordinary accomplishment at a time when the United States was reeling from the energy crisis.

His business success meant he could pay for much of his Senate run in 1982, when the seat was open because the incumbent Democrat, Harrison Williams, resigned after being implicated in a bribe-taking scandal.

Lautenberg’s opponent, moderate Republican congresswoman Millicent Fenwick, had the backing of the state’s popular GOP governor, Thomas Kean, and was favored to win. But Lautenberg prevailed, 52 percent to 48 percent.

His Senate career was marked both by unflinching liberalism and his reputation for integrity. Lautenberg retired in 2001, but in a replay of his 1982 election, the state party called on him to run in 2002 after the scandal-plagued Robert Torricelli was forced to resign. This time, Lautenberg won handily.

His liberalism was rooted in his hardscrabble youth overshadowed by the death of his father from cancer when he was a boy, according to lifelong friend and fellow Paterson native Stephen Greenberg, now chairman of NCSJ.

“Paterson was the silk center of the world at the time,” Greenberg said. “You had this massive number of Jews from Russia and Poland in that whole area. His father worked in the silk mills, and Frank believed that was the predominant source of his cancer.”

Lautenberg became the Senate’s leading advocate of public safety, writing laws that improved standards for clean coastal waters and tripled liability for oil spills. In 1968 he founded the Lautenberg Center for Immunology and Cancer Research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

He launched crusades for safer conduct on the roads, rails and in the air. During his short absence from the Senate in 2001-02, the Secaucus Junction train station was named for him, honoring his work on expanding rail transportation in the eastern United States.

The last World War II veteran in Congress, Lautenberg also led passage of the “G.I. Bill for the 21st Century,” extending education benefits to veterans of the post-Sept. 11 wars.

Lautenberg was in Israel on Sept. 11 2001, on a federation mission that included a stop at a park in Rishon Letzion named for him. Upon learning of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, he used his pull as a former senator to secure spots on flights back to the United States, so the Jewish officials on the trip could attend to families affected by the attack.

“Because of him, we were able to make international flights back to the United States,” recalled Max Kleinman, the executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest in New Jersey.

In 2011, Lautenberg initiated a non-binding Senate resolution that recommended marking Sept. 11 with a moment of silence; it passed unanimously.

Despite his firebrand reputation, Lautenberg was avuncular in person. Jewish staffers on Capitol Hill called him “zayde,” Yiddish for “grandfather,” recalled Rabbi Levi Shemtov, director of American Friends of Lubavitch. Lautenberg was a regular at holiday events, and if he noticed Jewish officials in the halls, he would stop and chat.

“He felt connected,” Shemtov said.

Lautenberg’s Jewishness and Americanism were wrapped one into the other, the NCSJ’s Greenberg recalled. Lautenberg was outraged in 1985 to learn that President Ronald Reagan was planning to mark the 40th anniversary of V.E. Day with a visit to Bitburg, a German military cemetery that included the remains of officers of the murderous SS, the Nazis’ elite military unit.

Jewish leaders were outspoken in their fury, but Lautenberg decided his protest would be personal. On May 4, 1985 – the day before the anniversary – Lautenberg toured Dachau with Greenberg and Morris Glass, a survivor of the camp. From there they went to Munich to pay tribute to the 11 Israeli athletes murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Olympics.

On May 5, the day Reagan was at Bitburg, the trio was at the massive U.S. military cemetery at Henri Chapelle in Belgium, where Lautenberg laid wreaths on the gravestones of three New Jersey soldiers – one Jew and two Christians.

“We were two Jewish boys from Paterson, N.J., doing their part when the president was going to the wrong place to honor the wrong people,” Greenberg said.

(JTA)

Share Button

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

Leave a comment (Select your commenting platform)

2 Responses to “Sen. Lautenberg Remembered As ‘Lifesaver’ For Russian Jews”

  1. Charlie Hall says:

    Thank you, Senator, for everything. You will be missed.

  2. Alice Lemos says:

    Unfortunately, the late senator supported infanticide (partial birth abortion) and even defended this abhorrent practice on the floor o the Senate. He should not receive a pass on this.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Loading Facebook Comments ...
Loading Disqus Comments ...
Current Top Story
BDS targets Zabar's; Carole Zabar promotes BDS proponents.
All in the Family: BDS Protests Zabars; Carole Zabar Promotes BDS
Latest News Stories
BDS targets Zabar's; Carole Zabar promotes BDS proponents.

Carole Zabar, longtime supporter of BDS promoters, is now in a pickle – Zabar’s is a BDS target.

Rav Bina, the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh has sent the following letter out to alumni of the Yeshiva: Dear Alumni, This Wednesday one of my grandchildren will be undergoing crucial surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his leg. I ask all of you to please recite tehillim for him during the surgery, […]

Naftali Bennett speaking in the Knesset

PA president Abbas, who is about 9 years late for democratic elections, has threatened to dismantle the PA and annul the Oslo Accords. Sounds good to us…

Hamas supporters marching on the Temple Mount, waving Hamas flags.

Rabbi Meir Soloveichik and his family’s visit to the Temple Mount was cut short when violent rioting once again broke out on the holy site.

Anti-semitic attacks have escalated with the firebombing of a synagogue in the Ukraine. Watch the video of the attack…

A surprised group of hikers stumbled across human bones in a Gush Etzion cave. But what they actually found was even more astounding.

Many Pakistanis consider bin Laden a “hero of Islam.”

Two major obstacles have kept Israel from joining the program: Allegations by U.S. officials that Israel has discriminated against Arab- and Muslim-Americans seeking entry, and a proliferation of young Israelis traveling to the United States as tourists and then working illegally.

A Lebanese man who was arrested in Thailand on suspicion of belonging to Hezbollah admitted to targeting Israelis, Thai media reported.

On Friday afternoon, Syrian fighter jets hit opposition/rebel targets and villages on the Syrian side of the Ramat HaGolan (Golan Heights), in the Quneitra region. Large pillars of smoke are seen rising from struck areas. Quneitra is the site of an official crossing between Syria and Israel on the Golan. IAF jets were sent out […]

As Rabbi Stav said, “You’re free to think what you want. But do you want me to recognize Chelsea Clinton’s child as a Jew?”

Chimpanzees and Orangutans eat Matza, unleavened bread traditionally eaten during the Passover holiday, at the Ramat Gan Safari on Thursday, April 17, 2014. I hope they can digest it. On Passover no leavened bread (Chametz) is allowed in Jewish possession, and that includes food we feed our animals.

Following intelligence reports of further expected Arab rioting and violence on the Temple Mount today, the police have placed restrictions on Muslim entry to the Jewish holy site, according to a report on Arutz-7. Entry will be limited to Muslims over the age of 50, and women, also they must be Israeli citizens or residency […]

PA President Abbas’s refusal to publicly condemn the terror attack that killed Baruch Mizrachi is putting a damper on the parade.

The Shas political party, founded and run by the late Rav Ovadia Yosef, has a appointed a new spiritual leader, according to a Galei Tzahal report. The rabbi chosen to replace Harav Ovadia and be the new president of the party’s Council of Torah Sages is Rabbi Shalom Cohen. Aryeh Deri is the political leader […]

In 1941, the Jews of Kiev received a similar leaflet. When they showed up the next day, more than 34,000 were murdered.

More Articles from Ron Kampeas

But Israel’s stance is not sufficiently consequential to set off a fight between friends, neoconservative scholars said.

Russian-Army-031414

Tensions between Russia and the West are mounting over the Russian military takeover of the Crimean Peninsula, with the United States and European countries threatening to impose sanctions.

Expansive outreach, of course, is nothing new for AIPAC. But in the wake of battles over Iran sanctions legislation that pitted the pro-Israel lobbying powerhouse against the White House, many congressional Democrats and liberals more generally, AIPAC’s traditional emphasis on Israel as a bipartisan issue has taken on added urgency.

Administration officials and Jewish groups sympathetic to Kerry’s initiative say there is a longer-term agenda in preempting attacks on the framework peace agreement the Obama administration is expected to propose soon.

“As we have since the beginning of the process, we continue to support Secretary Kerry’s diplomatic efforts to achieve a secure and lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittman said in a statement to JTA.

WASHINGTON – Until recently, the rule of thumb in the pro-Israel community was that the bigger the academic group, the less likely it was to consider a boycott of Israeli colleagues.

WASHINGTON – Amid simmering tensions over Iran policy, the Obama and Netanyahu governments appear to have quietly forged common ground in recent weeks on Israeli-Palestinian talks, with the United States accepting that a possible “framework” agreement might not address every outstanding issue in the negotiations.

WASHINGTON – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is hoping the enemy of one’s enemy truly does become a friend.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/us-news/sen-lautenberg-remembered-as-lifesaver-for-russian-jews/2013/06/05/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: