by Natalie Buchbinder
Former Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, the son of a Jewish immigrant from Ukraine, died Sunday at age 82 after a battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
Specter’s 30-year senate career, lasting from 1981 until 2011, earned him the title of longest-serving Pennsylvania senator. In 2009, the moderate Republican joined the Democratic party, a move that ultimately cost him his Senate seat. Earlier in his career, the Yale Law School graduate served as a Pennsylvania state prosecutor and a lawyer for the Warren Commission.
Specter was an outspoken supporter of Jewish values. The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the largest Orthodox Jewish association in America, wrote that Specter was a “staunch supporter of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, fierce advocate for religious liberty, promoter of freedom for Soviet Jewry and more” in a statement on their website.
“Senator Specter has left behind a proud legacy of public service that will hopefully guide future generations of public servants, Jewish or not,” said National Jewish Democratic Council Chair Marc Stanley and CEO David Harris in a statement released on the NJDC website.
Today, President Obama issued a proclamation stating that all flags be flown at half-mast out of respect for Specter.
“Arlen Specter was always a fighter,” said President Obama in a statement released by The White House on Sunday. “From his days stamping out corruption as a prosecutor in Philadelphia to his three decades of service in the Senate, Arlen was fiercely independent – never putting party or ideology ahead of the people he was chosen to serve.”