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Senator Howard Metzenbaum: Devoted Senator, Reform Jewish Leader, Tireless Fighter for Social Justice

Senator Howard Metzenbaum: Devoted Senator, Reform Jewish Leader, Tireless Fighter for Social Justice

Contact Sean Thibault
202.387.2800 | news@rac.org

March 13 -- Senator Howard Metzenbaum, who served as chair of theCommission on Social Action of Reform Judaism (CSA) and as a member of the board of trustees of the Union for Reform Judaism, was remembered today as a tireless pursuer of Judaism’s prophetic vision. Metzenbaum died Thursday at the age of 90. 

“Senator Howard Metzenbaum was one of a remarkable generation of American Jews who started with very little but – through hard work and dedication – succeeded,” said Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. “He never forgot his roots and championed the rights of the least fortunate among us until the day he died.” 

As an attorney, businessman and politician, Metzenbaum dedicated his life to protecting workers, guarding civil rights and advocating on behalf of consumers. As a Reform Jewish leader, he dedicated his time and energy to making the Reform Movement stronger and ensuring that the Movement sustained the prophetic vision of and commitment to social justice. His service to the people of Ohio, eight years in the state legislature and 18 years in the U.S. Senate, was marked by his moral drive and commitment to protecting the powerless.

“Howard Metzenbaum was a deeply committed Reform Jew,” remembered Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism. “He embodied the values of g’milut chasadim (acts of loving kindness) in his actions and in his professional endeavors. His vigorous pursuit of protections for the less fortunate is his legacy.”

Within the Movement, Senator Metzenbaum was a model of lay leadership and visionary advocate, explained Rabbi Saperstein.

“When I came to Washington in 1974, Howard had just finished his term as chair of the CSA. I turned to him for advice and guidance, and his judgment was consistently wise, his vision always inspiring. His intense sense of right and wrong clearly drove his leadership on so many ethical issues, such as opposing apartheid in South Africa, that were vital to his vision of what America should stand for and be.”

Al Vorspan, director emeritus of the Commission on Social Action and vice president emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism, added,

“Senator Metzenbaum’s time in the Senate was marked by consistent and ferocious efforts to achieve just public policy. He was clearheaded, very smart and very gutsy.”

Senator Metzenbaum is survived by his wife and partner Shirley and their four daughters. 

Published: 03/13/2008