Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ is saddened by the death of the esteemed Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (1924-2013). A past MetroWest UJA Campaign chair and National UJA Campaign chair, an accomplished U.S. senator, and a special friend to our community, he will be greatly missed.
“Sen. Frank Lautenberg was a champion for the people of New Jersey, the Jewish community, and the State of Israel,” said Max Kleinman, executive vice president/CEO of the Greater MetroWest federation. “As UJA chair for MetroWest and then National UJA chair, he helped raise hundreds of millions of dollars to help Jewish communities and Israel. Through the Lautenberg Amendment, he ensured that hundreds of thousands of FSU Jews and others encountering religious persecution could arrive on our shores as refugees. He did more than anyone else in the Senate to improve transportation, including banning smoking on airplanes. His indomitable spirit, philanthropy, and leadership will be sorely missed.”
“Today we mourn the loss of Sen. Frank Lautenberg,” said federation president Lori Klinghoffer. “A true friend and supporter of the Jewish people and our beloved State of Israel, the senator significantly impacted the lives of so many. We’ve lost an icon in our world. A philanthropist and legislator whose good works span many, many decades, his passing leaves a void which will be challenging to fill. May we continue to pursue the mission of securing the future and security of the Jewish people, and may his memory be a blessing to his family and our community.”
The senator’s life is one to celebrate. His list of accomplishments within and contributions to the Jewish community is long:
• A generous philanthropist and tireless and passionate supporter of Israel, he helped many through his support of federation locally and nationally, by chairing the MetroWest UJA Campaign and then the national UJA Campaign during the Yom Kippur War, at Israel’s most perilous time. He helped to build the Jewish federation campus in Whippany where the Lautenberg Family Center stands.
• A leader in the Soviet Jewry movement, he authored the historic Lautenberg Amendment in 1989 that reinstated the long-standing presumption that Soviet Jews, evangelical Christians, and certain Vietnamese have a well-founded fear of persecution entitling them to refugee status. From 1989 to 2005, this amendment facilitated the resettlement of more than 303,000 Jews and an additional 172,000 individuals of different faiths from the former Soviet Union to our shores.
• The senator championed aging in place, helping to secure federal dollars for the implementation of Natural Occurring Retirement Communities in New Jersey over a seven-year period, proving NORCs are cost-effective and help ensure that seniors live healthier, happier lives when they can age in place in their homes and communities.
• Sen. Lautenberg was a leader in fighting terrorism and ensuring justice for American victims of terrorism. He wrote the original laws to allow victims of terrorism to bring legal action against foreign governments that sponsor terrorist acts, helping the Flatow and Duker families from, respectively, MetroWest and Bergen County recover damages from Iran in the late 1990s for attacks that killed their daughters. These laws also helped resolve all outstanding U.S. terrorism claims against the Libyan government, including those from New Jersey in the 1988 Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland.
• An avid proponent of the fight against gun violence, he wrote the domestic violence gun ban to protect women and children by keeping spousal and child abusers from owning guns. This law prohibits those who have been convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors from buying or possessing firearms. He helped write a law to restrict gun sales to suspected terrorists. His legislation to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines received a vote in the Senate earlier this year.
“Sen. Lautenberg was a true Jewish leader of our time,” said Melanie Roth Gorelick, director of the Community Relations Committee of Greater MetroWest NJ. “He was a champion for Israel’s security and an advocate to stop Iran’s nuclear proliferation. He cared about the well-being of the people of New Jersey, and he and his staff were always available to hear our concerns on a wide variety of issues and concerns. He will truly be missed.”