Senator Frank Lautenberg’s death is not only a great loss for his family and friends, but for the U.S. Congress, the nation, the Jewish people and the global community. Throughout a public service career that spanned more than six decades, from his military service in World War II to his leadership in the Senate, Frank Lautenberg was a force for justice.
We were privileged to have the opportunity to work closely with him and his staff for nearly 30 years. When, following his significant achievements in the business world and his leadership of Jewish communal institutions, including the national United Jewish Appeal, he came to the U.S. Senate, we appreciated how closely he worked with us when the Supreme Court struck down the right of military members to wear yarmulkes and led the way in passing legislation to restore that right. He was among the most outspoken Jewish members on the issue of religious liberty in the U.S. and religious pluralism and equality for the all the Jewish religious streams in Israel. We greatly appreciated his constant leadership of efforts to pass sensible gun control, including closing the gun show loophole, and worked closely with the Senator and his staff on this issue over many years.
He was committed to honoring the members of our military and ensuring for them and their families the care and support they deserved. He fought tirelessly to protect our environment and uphold “right to know” rules that informed individuals of the environmental health hazards to which they were exposed. And just a few weeks ago, he ensured that the amendment that bears his name and allows refugees escaping religious persecution to live safely in the U.S. was again passed by Congress.
Throughout his life Senator Lautenberg embodied the Biblical mandate “tzedek, tzedek tirdof,” justice, justice shall you pursue. In all that he did, he pursued justice through just means, using the tools of government to transform and better the lives of others. May his memory be for a blessing to his family and to all whose lives were touched by the remarkable Senator Frank Lautenberg.
Rabbi David Saperstein is the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Read the formal statement from the RAC.