|October 14, 2012—New York—AJC today mourned the death of Arlen Specter, who represented Pennsylvania in the United States Senate from 1981 to 2011. Specter, 82, was a recipient of AJC's Congressional Leadership Award.
"At a time of deep polarization in our country’s politics, Senator Specter’s reliably strong stand for justice and fairness, and his vigorous defense of moderation, are sorely missed," said AJC Executive Director David Harris.
“Senator Specter was a respected voice in foreign affairs – as a staunch supporter of the U.S.-Israel alliance, as a leader in efforts to facilitate the emigration of Soviet Jews and other individuals suffering religious persecution, and as a watchdog on international terrorism who raised alarms over Iran’s military ambitions.
"And, with a reputation for fearsome legal acuity, his contributions to domestic affairs were similarly impressive – as a leader of efforts to protect the constitutional separation of church and state, safeguard individual liberties, and combat hate crimes."
The lone Jewish member of the Senate in the Republican Party, Specter was elected to the Senate five times as a Republican, but switched to the Democratic Party in his final term, and was defeated in a Democratic primary in 2010. At various times in his Senate career, he chaired the Judiciary, Veterans Affairs, and Select Intelligence committees. Before his election to federal office, Specter was District Attorney of Philadelphia.