Senator Frank R. Lautenberg 1924-2013


Frank Lautenberg’s rise to wealth and prominence is a classic rags-to-riches story. Born in Paterson, N.J., the son of Polish and Russian immigrants who came to the United States through Ellis Island, his early life was unsettled as his parents moved about a dozen times while struggling to support the family. Lautenberg's father, Sam, worked in the silk mills, sold coal, farmed, and once ran a tavern. When Lautenberg was 19, his father died of cancer. Lautenberg blamed his father’s untimely death on the environmental conditions he faced and he later became a champion of protecting the environment. To help his family, he worked nights and weekends until he graduated from Nutley High School.

Lautenberg served in the Army Signal Corps in Europe during World War II, where he reached the rank of corporal. He was the last of the greatest generation to serve in the Senate. Following the war, he attended Columbia University on the GI Bill of Rights, which helped convince him of the efficacy of government programs, the hallmark of his liberalism. He later sponsored a new GI Bill for soldiers who served in post 9/11 military.

Lautenberg worked as a marketing specialist in Henry Taub's accounting practice. By sheer salesmanship, and later by strategic acquisitions, he helped the business grow rising to president and later CEO of Automatic Data Processing [ADP], which had the then unique idea of outsourcing payroll processing. Lautenberg, along with his partners, developed ADP into one of the largest computing services companies in the world, processing the payrolls of hundreds of thousands of companies. He rewarded his workers with a stock ownership plan and they rewarded their officers by refusing to unionize.

As he amassed a fortune, he entered Jewish life, rising to be national chairman of the United Jewish Appeal, then at the pinnacle of Jewish fundraising and president of the American Friends of the Hebrew University. His philanthropy in New Jersey and in Israel is vast. Numerous institutions bear the Lautenberg name.

He was proud of the Lautenberg the Lautenberg Center for Immunology and Cancer Research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which was directed by Lautenberg’s cousin Dr. David Weiss, a most prominent Israel scientist.

Denied a Jewish education in his youth, he learned basic synagogue skills only as an adult. But his Jewish identity was central to his philanthropy as well as to his sense of self. I was with him in the Choral Synagogue in Moscow during the peak of the Soviet Jewry movement when he received the “kohen aliyah” and told the Soviet Jews we met how as an adult he came to get a basic Jewish education.

As a Senator, he sponsored the Lautenberg Amendment which passed in October 1989, and facilitated the emigration of former Soviet Jews by relaxing the stringent standards for refugee status, granting immigrant status to those who could show religious persecution in their native lands. It has also helped Jews from Iran and people of many faiths who had to flee their homelands because of persecution.

Before running for office, Lautenberg served as a New York/New Jersey Port Authority commissioner (1978–82) and as a commissioner of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. Lautenberg, running as a Democrat for a New Jersey senatorial seat, beat veteran congresswoman Millicent Fenwick, then 72. He campaigned as the young upstart against a veteran incumbent who had long served in combat – he called her a national monument. It was a tactic that was later to be used against him as he developed seniority and aged in office. He was elected twice after the age of 78 and even after being diagnosed with cancer was reluctant to announce his retirement when his term expired in 2014. He was not pleased when Mayor Corey Booker announced his interest in Lautenberg’s seat. Lautenberg wanted to go out as he had lived — on his own terms.

Lautenberg came to the world of public service from the world of Jewish philanthropy, the transition was natural. His values remained constant, only his stage had changed, his reach expanded, and so too, his potential impact. And he was always proud of what he had achieved as a Jew in the United States, proud of his service to Israel and the Jewish people which he saw as a seamless statement of all he held dear.

I recall his incredulity when right-wing and hawkish Jews challenged his pro-Israel credentials. Their “holier than thou” attitude baffled him and then annoyed him and they stood open mouthed as he reeled off the charities he supported in Israel, the institutions he founded, the trips he had made and the projects he had launched.

Over his first three terms in the U.S. Senate, Lautenberg built a solid record of accomplishment on a broad range of issues. He voted against the use of military forces in the Persian Gulf, a position that he defended even after the American victory by castigating Saudi Arabia and Kuwait for not honoring their commitments. He was best known for his anti-smoking campaign and for his advocacy of mass transportation essential to his New Jersey constituents. A New Jersey Transit Rail Transfer Station in Secaucus proudly bears his name.

I remember being with him shortly after Governor Chris Christie refused to spend the funds that New Jersey would have to contribute toward the new mass transit tunnel under the Hudson River. Lautenberg, who had worked tirelessly to amass the Federal funds, was seething. He well understood its implications for future generations.

Lautenberg retired from the U.S. Senate in 2000 at the age of 76, a decision he soon regretted. He was still vigorous and an ardent skier—in his eighties he was injured taking a ski run that people half his age would not dare—he missed the action of the Senate. Fate provided him with an opportunity when his fellow Democrat and acrimonious rival Robert Torricelli got caught up in a scandal and was forced to withdraw from the race. Democratic Party leaders turned to Lautenberg to preserve the Democratic seat. With his widespread name recognition and his own funding and fundraising prowess—Torricelli would not give him a penny of the $5.1 million campaign chest he had amassed–as well as assistance from the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, Lautenberg ran again and won handily, returning to the Senate after a two years' absence. With his loss of seniority, he was freed from leadership responsibilities and became an ardent critic of the Bush Administration, calling Vice President Dick Cheney, a “chicken hawk” for having avoided military service but sending others to die in battle.

Among his accomplishments in the Senate: he was instrumental in passing laws that raised the legal drinking age to 21, prohibited domestic-violence convicts from buying guns and required companies to disclose the chemicals they release into the environment, an early “right-to-know” provision that became a model for others. He helped Amtrak gain more than $20 billion in governmental funding.

He also was a lead champion of women’s rights, advancing laws mandating sex education and keeping pharmacists from invoking religious beliefs in order to deny service to women seeking birth control medications.

Lautenberg was a proud Jew. When President Reagan went to Bitburg, Lautenberg went to Germany. The day before, he visited Dachau with a survivor of the camp and from there he went to Munich to pay tribute to the 11 Israeli athletes murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Olympics. As the President toured Bitburg, Lautenberg went to the massive U.S. military cemetery at Henri Chapelle in Belgium, where Lautenberg laid wreaths on the gravestones of three New Jersey soldiers — one Jewish and two Christians. He had opposed the grand gesture of the Holocaust Memorial Council resigning to protest the President’s visit. Twenty years after its successful opening and 35 million visitors later, with Regan long gone and German Chancellor Kohl only a distant memory, Lautenberg’s caution seems vindicated.

I worked with Frank Lautenberg for many years, first on the President’s Commission on the Holocaust and later on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Lautenberg served on the President's Commission on the Holocaust and was both a Congressional and a citizen appointee to the Museum’s governing Council.

We travelled together on business and he was a friend of many years. I could approach him to support projects and to help young scholars. He was generous in ways large and small.

Two personal stories come to mind that give a measure of the man. We first traveled together when I was in my early 30s. Given the imbalance of resources between us, Lautenberg graciously picked up the bills for our food. Young and somewhat brazen, I once reached for the check and he looked at me as if I had taken leave of my senses. I said: “At least let me take you to breakfast” and that became our custom, he would treat me to lunch and dinner, and breakfast would be on me. For many years even as he served in the Senate, I would get a call, “I’m running low on funds and I need someone to pick up the breakfast tab.” It became a running joke with us.

As I think of the government sequester, I remember the time that Lautenberg and I served together on a foundation board. One day the Executive Director came in and proposed a five percent across-the-board cut to meet a budget deficit. Much to the surprise of the rest of the board, Lautenberg immediately called for an Executive Session. He began the session by telling a story: “When I was a young man, I was broke, my company was broke; my mother and my in-laws were mortgaged to the hilt; so too, my partners and their families. We were going broke but we had a fantastic product. A friend put his arm around my shoulder and said, ‘triple your marketing budget and suspend your development people.’ Either your marketing people will be able to sell the product and the company will make it or you will have to go bankrupt in three months. And that’s what we did. The result is ADP. Anyone who suggests across the board cut is not managing. Make strategic choices where to invest and where to cut.”

We came out of the Executive Session and told the stunned Executive Director that an across the board cut was unacceptable; decisions had to be made and justified. When the next meeting was held, strategic choices were made and the foundation was far stronger to the exercise.

Frank Lautenberg never forgot where he came from and how far he had traveled. He was grateful for all that he had been achieved and he knew that to those to whom a lot is given, a lot is expected. He welcomed that responsibility. He never forgot his friends and his stood proudly with his people.

Was Frank Lautenberg sufficiently pro-Israel?


Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post berates AIPAC for what she calls its “fawning” remembrance of Frank Lautenberg, the longtime New Jersey senator who died yesterday:

As for Lautenberg, AIPAC’s fawning can be chalked up to the gradual lowering of the bar for Democrats in an era in which most are pro-Israel, except when inconvenient. They therefore chose to overlook Lautenberg’s support for anti-Israel Chuck Hagel for defense secretary and his demands for a unilateral settlement freeze by the Jewish state. It wasn’t so long ago (1988 to be exact) when he signed a letter to George Shultz lambasting publicly then prime minister Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir on Israel’s negotiating posture. AIPAC, I suppose, chose to overlook Lautenberg’s muteness during this administration when the president “condemned” Israel for building in its capital.

“Fawning” suggests a transactional relationship. Rubin does not make clear what AIPAC derives, exactly, from praising the dead.

According to Rubin’s standard, the Republican Jewish Coalition also is lowering the pro-Israel bar:

Frank Lautenberg was a staunch supporter of Israel and a leader in Jewish communal life. He served his country during World War II and in decades of dedicated public service. His work in the Senate helped thousands of Soviet Jews and other victims of religious persecution to reach freedom. He was a proud Jew and a proud American.

Lautenberg’s Israel record, as the RJC notes, predates his time in the Senate; As UJA chairman in the 1970s, he oversaw an increase in fundraising for — and concomitant growth in U.S.-Jewish identification with — Israel in the country’s dark post-Yom Kippur War years.

Some of the most earnest praise I’ve heard for Lautenberg, paradoxically, comes from Jews whose views are diametrically opposed to his liberalism. This is because his signature 1989 law, the Lautenberg Amendment, facilitating emigration from the former Soviet Union and Iran, flooded this country with Jews whose politics trend more conservative than those of the established community.

I don’t know if Lautenberg ever considered whether he was “undercutting” his natural Jewish constituency when he wrote the law, or whether he cared that its inadvertent end was the advancement of Rubin’s stated mission, which is to correct what she sees as the skewed liberal temperament of the American Jewish community. From what I knew, he championed the law because he believed in extending to others the freedom of political and religious choice that was his birthright.

UPDATE: Gil Hoffman, a longtime Israel correspondent at the New Jersey Jewish News, outlines Lautenberg’s Israel record for the Jerusalem Post — including more than 80 visits to the country. Hoffman goes into detail about how Lautenberg first heard of the Sept. 11 attacks while visiting Israel.

Joe Biden has started a kind of audio blog, “Being Biden.” Yesterday, he gave it over to his friendship with Lautenberg:

Czech Senate to consider property restitution


Czech Jewish leaders said they hoped their Senate would approve restitution of confiscated religious property.

The Czech Parliament on July 14 voted in favor of distributing $3.7 billion among 17 religious denominations, including the Jewish community. The money is compensation for property nationalized during the communist regime. The Senate is expected to vote on the proposal in the next two months.

“This legislation is a good compromise,” Tomas Kraus, executive director of the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic, told JTA.

The Jewish community’s share of the lump sum “will not be very high,” he added. The Czech Republic already offered restitution for Jewish property in 1994 and 2000.

The Czech Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party—both in the opposition—object to the compromise. The opposition enjoys a majority in the Senate.

Kraus said he believed the Czech upper house would veto the compromise. Parliament then would vote again on the issue, probably in September.

The compromise offers to end state subsidies for clergymen by 2029. The Czech government spends approximately $70 million on their salaries.

“The compromise allows all parties to win,” Kraus said. “For religious bodies it’s a moral victory, while the state can end funding clergymen. If the compromise is torpedoed, state funding for clergy could increase. The opposition is overlooking this.”

The number of priests in the Czech Republic grew from 3,500 a decade ago ago to 4,755 in 2009.

The current compensation of $3.7 billion is slightly lower than the sum offered in negotiations in 2008 between religious bodies and the government, according to Petr Papousek, vice chairman of the Czech Federation of Jewish Communities.

“Ending state subsidies for religious leaders could mean financial uncertainty for the Jewish community, so there is also ambivalence regarding the compromise. Yet a different government could offer even less,” Papousek said.

Protesters get jail time for pie attack on Jewish senator


Two war protesters were sentenced to 30 days in federal prison for throwing a pie in the face of U.S. Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan.

Ahlam Mohsen, 24, and Max Kantar, 23, both of Michigan, attacked Levin in August 2010 while Levin was meeting with constituents in a deli in Grand Rapids. Kantar read a statement before Mohsen hit Levin in the face with the pie. After being arrested, Kantar acknowledged that his message had been “lost.”

Levin, who is Jewish, was targeted because of his role as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He was unharmed.

According to mlive.com, U.S. District Judge Robert Bell criticized Mohsen and Kantar at their sentencing for attacking the senator even after Kantar had been given the opportunity to share his views.

A 2008 article on the anti-war site Information Clearinghouse attributed to a Max Kantar provided a “translation dictionary” of “the unspoken meanings” of terms referring to “U.S. Foreign Policy, Israel and International relations.” In it he defined “anti-Semitism” as “An accusation usually used to define criticism of Israel’s ongoing war crimes” and Israel’s “Right to Exist” as “Israel’s right to continue outwardly racist policies … apartheid … [and] a genocidal siege on Gaza.”

Lieberman reportedly to announce he’s done


U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman reportedly will not run for re-election.

Lieberman (I-Conn.), who became the first Jewish nominee on a major presidential ticket when Al Gore chose him as his running mate in 2000, will announce his decision Wednesday in Hartford, Politico reported.

Lieberman lost favor with Democrats over his support for the Iraq War. He lost the Connecticut primary in 2006 but ran as an independent and won.

He caucused with the Democrats, but backed the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008.

Lieberman’s overall ratings are low, ” title=”Politico.com” target=”_blank”>Politico.com.

 

 

Ted Kennedy Dead at 77


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U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a major figure in the Democratic Party who took the helm of one of America’s most fabled political families after two older brothers were assassinated, died late on Tuesday at age 77.

“Edward M. Kennedy, the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply, died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port (Massachusetts),” the Kennedy family said in a statement.

“The Jewish community knew three Ted Kennedys,” wrote Jewish Journal Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman, ” and not all will be mourned equally. There was Ted the Brother, Ted the Scoundrel, Ted the Israel-Lover.”

Read the full story at HAARETZ.com.

Read the full statement here:

Edward M. Kennedy – the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply – died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port. We’ve lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever. We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all. He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it. He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it’s hard to imagine any of them without him.

Obituary links:
To read Rob Eshman’s commentary, “Ted Kennedy, Israel and the Jews,” click here.
NYTimes.com
LATimes.com

No Boxer Rebellion


The latest Field Poll shows U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer coasting toward re-election to a third term. She leads her Republican challenger, former California Secretary of State Bill Jones 48 to 32 percent.

The race will probably get closer, but it is hard to see how Jones can catch up as long as Boxer maintains the stranglehold on Democratic voters she has maintained since her first election in 1992. In each of her elections, she has dominated the Democratic electorate (including Jewish voters), run up big totals in Los Angeles County and the Bay Area, painted her Republican opponents as out-of-the-mainstream conservatives and won rather easily. Jones seems to be about to become the latest victim of the Boxer train.

Once buoyed by the 2003 recall and the election of GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Republicans must feel that they are on the verge of missing yet another chance to knock Boxer out. There were reasons to think Boxer would have a particularly hard time this year. Last year, President Bush was quite popular in California. Schwarzenegger had taken over California politics and endorsed her opponent, Jones.

With greater Republican interest in statewide politics due to the recall, there might be a high turnout of Republican voters, just as there had been in October 2003. Most of all, the percentage of voters who thought Boxer should be re-elected hasn’t been over 50 percent in the Field Poll for more than year, a serious warning sign for an incumbent.

Yet here she is. Bush’s popularity is falling in California and Democrats are energized. The Senate race is moving into a zone of disinterest, overshadowed by the presidential election and statewide ballot measures.

The worst news for Jones has to be the low level of interest in the Senate race. According to the Field Poll, 9 percent of voters were following the Senate campaign very closely in August; now it is only 8 percent.

By contrast, historic numbers of U.S. voters are playing close attention to the presidential election. Without much media attention — the challenger’s oxygen against an incumbent — it may be hard for Jones to catch up.

Boxer may not be the sort of moderate candidate that, as a whole, California voters love, compared to, say, Sen. Dianne Feinstein. But she can raise tons of money, she is hugely energetic and she maintains her political base in the Democratic Party.

She is also surprisingly careful. In the 2003 recall, she distanced herself from the doomed Gray Davis by joining with Loretta Sanchez to float the idea of Feinstein running as a replacement candidate. She was rather judicious in what she said about Schwarzenegger, a man who keeps a close tally of friends and enemies.

Even as a liberal activist, Boxer stays below the radar and does not become a lightning rod for her political enemies. She is no Hillary Clinton, keeping the radical right up at night boiling with rage. She manages to be a liberal icon without stirring up a hornet’s nest.

Boxer’s biggest problem would not have been Jones, but Schwarzenegger. Had the governor thrown everything he had at Boxer, he might have disrupted her winning formula.

Fortunately for Boxer, the governor has other fish to fry. He is trying to block some gambling ballot measures and hoping to win some state legislative seats for his party.

He needs friends in Washington of both parties to win benefits for California and would be unlikely to expend a lot of energy trying to drive an incumbent senator out of office. Some even think that he has his eye on Feinstein’s Senate seat in 2006, should she step down.

If so, he would need to keep refining his bipartisan approach for a Republican in a Democratic state. His support among California Democrats has been dropping since he spoke at the Republican convention.

What is most surprising about Boxer’s impending re-election is that we no longer notice that California has two Jewish women senators. When they came on board together in 1992, this was a true phenomenon. Now there are 11 Jewish senators and numerous members of the House of Representatives, governors and even a vice presidential nominee in 2000. Some are Democrats, others are Republicans.

It is hard to imagine that a generation ago, Jews debated whether prominent Jewish officeholders would excite anti-Semitism. Now, political candidates brag about their long-lost Jewish relatives, Jews hold office in great numbers and the result has not been an upsurge of anti-Semitism.

While Jewish elected officials do not vote as a bloc, it is a sea change to have so many people in Washington, D.C., who directly understand the core issues of Jewish voters. And Boxer seems to show that with the right combination of moxie and luck, even a Jewish liberal can survive and thrive in high office.

Support for IsraelElementary to Watson


She may not know the word shteibel, but she knows what’s going on.

"I represented [them] before, you know, in the ’80s when I was a state senator," said Rep. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles), referring to the Jews of Hancock Park. "They wanted to pray, to have a temple in a house. I helped them get the permits."

When Watson runs for reelection this November, she’ll face some disadvantages not usually encountered by an incumbent politician. For one, she will have only represented her constituents for 18 months. She had won the House seat in a special election last year to replace the late Julian Dixon.

Another disadvantage is redistricting, which has changed the shape of her congressional district and added new voters groups that she has never represented in Congress before. Those new constituents include the active Jewish community of Hancock Park.

"I’m very pleased to have Hancock Park back," said Watson, whose redrawn 33rd District will retain her base in Culver City, Ladera Heights and South Los Angeles, at the same time adding Hancock Park and parts of the Hollywood and Silverlake areas. Watson represented much of the same area, including part of Hancock Park, when she became the first African American woman elected to state Senate in 1978, serving five terms.

In 1976, she became the first African American woman on the Los Angeles School Board. Before returning to elected office last year to fill Dixon’s congressional seat, Watson served two years as ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia.

As a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Watson is aware of the tensions between African American and Jewish leaders that have grown during this election cycle, particularly the primary defeats of African American incumbents Earl Hilliard in Alabama and Cynthia McKinney in Georgia. Both incumbents were defeated with the help of Jewish organizations and individuals, largely from outside their House districts, concerned over their anti-Israel voting records.

In contrast to the two defeated House members, Watson has regularly supported Israel in Congress. She even met with Agudath Israel of America’s 2002 National Leadership Mission to Washington.

Watson, who sits of the House International Relations Committee, was quick to emphasize that the addition of the Jewish community in Hancock Park to her district does not add many Jewish voters to her constituency. The congresswoman explained that she lost Jewish voters in Cheviot Hills, the Pico-Robertson area and other parts of West Los Angeles in the same redistricting.

Her well-documented support for Israel, she said, is the result of her "long relationship with Israel, going back to the ’60s." In that decade, during a teaching stint in France, Watson made a side trip on her own to the Holy Land. "I’m a Catholic by the way, so the Via Dolorosa was an important place to visit."

In the 1980s, already familiar with the issues of the region and the importance of a strong Israel, Watson made an official trip to the country with a delegation from the state Legislature. During the visit, Watson conceived and later helped bring to Tel Aviv a statue honoring [African-American] Nobel Peace Prize winner Ralph Bunche, who helped negotiate the end of Israel’s War of Independence.

In November 2001, she delivered the keynote address at the "All Eyes on Israel" conference of the America Israel Public Affairs Committee on Campus (AIPAC), where she said that United States has no greater friend than Israel. "I just think we need to be there for Israel," she told The Journal, "and we certainly are."

Watson’s voting record reflects her visits to Israel and her public statements in support of the country. In December 2001, she voted for a House resolution urging action against Palestinian terrorism. In March of this year, she signed a letter to President Bush urging the addition of the Palestinian groups Tanzim, Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Force 417 to the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations.

Watson has also voted in favor of the congressional resolution expressing solidarity with Israel in the fight against terrorism, and in favor of a strong foreign aid package for Israel. Elliot Brandt, AIPAC western regional director, called Watson "stellar in her support of Israel."

Watson is expected to easily win reelection in the heavily Democratic district. The California Public Policy Foundation predicted a "slam dunk" for the Democrat in its California Political Review newsletter.

The prediction, based on Democrats making up 69 percent of registered voters in the district, questioned only whether Republican challenger Andrew Kim will be able to match Bush’s 13 percent showing in the district 2000 election.

In a district which she called "hugely diverse," Watson represents approximately one-third African American voters, one-third Hispanics and one-third "everybody, everybody." The district includes Little Armenia, Thai Town, Koreatown and a Greek community. Luckily, Watson said, in foreign policy and her home district alike, "I’m a negotiator, not a pugilist."

Capitol Hill Gains


One influential Jewish representative was defeated, one venerated Jewish senator retired and the number of Jewish Republicans in the House may have tripled as a result of this week’s elections.Overall, the Jewish presence in Congress will increase, with several new faces in the House of Representatives.

The 107th Congress will have at least 27 Jewish representatives and at least nine senators. The 106th Congress had 23 Jewish representatives and 11 senators.

Two House races in which Jewish challengers were attempting to unseat incumbents were still too close to call Wednesday morning, as the nation waited to see whether Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) would become the first-ever Jewish vice president.

If Lieberman does not make it to the White House, he will return to the Senate, ensuring a Jewish “minyan” in the upper chamber.

But a Democratic Jewish colleague from Lieberman’s home state, Rep. Sam Gejdenson, will not be returning to Congress. Gejdenson lost his House seat and the important standing as the ranking minority member of the House International Relations Committee when he was unseated Tuesday by Republican Rob Simmons.

Gejdenson has long been viewed as a friend to the Jewish community and particularly strong on Israel issues.

Jews are losing another longtime friend on Capitol Hill with the retirement of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who stepped down after 18 years. His successor, Democrat Jon Corzine, who poured millions of his own dollars into the campaign, can thank the majority of the state’s 600,000 Jews who helped vote him into office.

Two other Jewish senators up for reelection – Dianne Feinstein (D- Calif.) and Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) – both won.

Republican Jewish numbers in the House, meanwhile, may increase from one to two or three, depending on whether Republican Dick Zimmer succeeds in unseating incumbent Democrat Rush Holt and regaining the seat Zimmer once held.

Zimmer was originally declared the winner in New Jersey’s 12th District, but by noon Wednesday, the race was still too close to call.

The new Jewish Republican in the House is Eric Cantor (R-Va.). Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.) was reelected.

New Democratic Jewish members of the House are Susan Davis and Adam Schiff of California, as well as Steve Israel of New York, who was the regional director for American Jewish Congress on Long Island in the 1980s.

Jane Harman (D-Calif.) returns to the House seat she once held after defeating Republican incumbent Steven Kuykendall.

Another race, in Florida’s 22nd District, was still too close to call Wednesday morning. There, 20-year incumbent Republican Clay Shaw was trying to stave off a challenge from Elaine Bloom, a Jewish Democrat. The bitter campaign had both candidates hurling accusations at each other and vying for the votes of the more than 100,000 Jews in the South Florida district.

The district is 40 to 45 percent Jewish, and both Bloom and Shaw have strong relationships with the community, said Luis Fleischman, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council in Palm Beach County.

Some races were watched closely because the Jewish vote could have made a difference, while others highlighted a particular candidate’s positions that either turned on or turned off Jewish sensibilities. Among the results from key Senate races are:

In New York, Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton defeated Republican Rick Lazio. After a grueling campaign, the first lady rode to victory by an estimated 56 percent to 44 percent. But Jews, who made up 14 percent of overall voters, were deeply split.

Estimates were that anywhere between 53 percent and 58 percent of Jews voted for Clinton amid lingering concern over her controversial kiss last year of Suha Arafat, the wife of the Palestinian Authority president, and her support of a Palestinian state. But Lazio may have tried too hard with his charges that Clinton had ties to Muslim groups advocating terrorism.

In California’s 27th District, Democrat Adam Schiff won a decisive victory over Republican incumbent Jim Rogan, after the candidates waged what was one of the most expensive House campaigns in history. Over $9 million later, Schiff beat out Rogan, one of the House managers during at the Clinton impeachment trial, by 54 to 43 percent.

In Nevada, Republican John Ensign defeated Jewish Democrat Ed Bernstein. A well-known trial attorney, Bernstein had been down more than 30 points and then pulled within four points of his opponent, but it was not enough. Nevada is a conservative state, and Bernstein’s liberal message did not play well, as he lost 56 to 40 percent. The open Democratic seat is a major loss to Senate Democrats, who were hoping for a gain in numbers.

In Colorado’s 6th District, Ken Toltz, a Jewish Democrat, went up against Republican incumbent Tom Tancredo but did not manage to unseat him. Tancredo beat the Jewish businessman 54 to 43 percent, as Tancredo’s conservatism appeared not to give him problems. Gun control had become a major issue in the campaign particularly because this district includes the town of Columbine, the scene of one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history.

In New Jersey, Democrat Corzine decisively beat Republican Bob Franks. For many Jews, the idea of anyone replacing Lautenberg, who was venerated by the Jewish community, will be tough. But Corzine spent $60 million on the campaign and reached out to a significant portion of the state’s 600,000 plus Jews. In the end, 72 percent of Jewish voters backed him.

In Michigan, Democrat Debbie Stabenow defeated Republican incumbent Sen. Spencer Abraham. In a very close race only declared Wednesday morning, Stabenow finally dealt Abraham, the only Arab American senator, a defeat.

Abraham was accused of running a lackluster campaign, while the two-term representative Stabenow’s health care ideas may have resonated with voters. The much-touted Arab-American voting bloc may not have come out strong enough for Abraham. Michigan has more than 100,000 Jews, and over 300,000 Arab Americans.

Among the House races involving Jewish candidates: In Illinois’ 10th District, Lauren Beth Gash, a Jewish Democrat, lost to Mark Kirk, a Republican. It was a close race for the open seat vacated by retiring Republican Rep. John Porter, who was well regarded by the 50,000-strong Jewish community on Chicago’s North Shore.

Gash, who was an active member of the Jewish delegation to the State Assembly and serves on the regional board of the American Jewish Congress, tried to reach out to Jews, but she fell short.

Kirk may have enjoyed some advantage because he worked for Porter, knows the Jewish community well and is adept with issues of importance to the community, such as aid to Israel and immigration, said Jay Tcath, director of the Chicago Jewish Community Relations Council.

In Virginia’s 7th District, Republican Eric Cantor defeated Democrat Warren A. Stewart by a wide margin. Cantor, a Jewish real estate executive, was heavily favored to win the seat of retiring 10-term Republican Rep. Thomas J. Bliley Jr.

In New Jersey’s 3rd District, Democrat Susan Bass Levin gave Republican Jim Saxton a good run, but Saxton ended up winning by 58 to 42 percent. Saxton, a 16-year incumbent, beat Levin, the popular Jewish mayor of Cherry Hill, despite her work to get support of the area’s 30,000 Jews. Levin apparently did not boost her name recognition enough outside her home city.

Jews in the New Senate

Following is a listing of Jews who will serve in the next Senate. (An asterisk indicates senators who were elected or reelected Tuesday.) Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) was also reelected and will serve if he does not become vice president.

Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) Russell Feingold (D-Wisc.) Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) * Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) * Carl Levin (D-Mich.) Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)