HIAS Mourns the Loss of Senator Arlen Specter, a Leader in Jewish Rescue

Posted on Mon, Oct 15, 2012 at 11:56 am

(New York, NY) - HIAS, the global migration agency of the American Jewish community, mourns the loss of Senator Arlen Specter, who died yesterday. For HIAS and Jews in America and around the world, the longtime senator from Pennsylvania will always be remembered for his dedication to Jewish rescue.

Senator Specter was a champion for legislation that helped thousands of Jews and other religious minorities who faced persecution for their religious beliefs find freedom and new lives in the United States. The Lautenberg Amendment, originally enacted in 1990 by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), eased the way for Soviet Jews to resettle in the U.S. In 1998, when Senator Lautenberg retired, Senator Specter led Congress in keeping open this path to safety and freedom. In 2003, the Senator likewise led efforts in Congress to expand the amendment to include the resettlement of Jews, Christians, Baha’is, and other historically persecuted religious minorities fleeing Iran.

According to Mark Hetfield, HIAS’ President & CEO (Interim): “Senator Specter always understood that keeping the door open to Jews and other religious minorities seeking freedom was the right thing to do, and we could always count on the Senator’s commitment and leadership. A prescient leader, he understood early on that religious minorities within Iran needed special protection. The senator never forgot his Jewish roots, and his legacy within the Jewish community is great.”