Lantos, who stretched the boundaries and responsibilities of Peoplehood
Posted February 12, 2008
For Immediate Release February 12, 2008
Contact: Micah Naftalin (202) 237-8262 x103
UCSJ MOURNS THE PASSING OF TOM LANTOS:
Champion For Progressive Foreign Policy, Holocaust Survivors, Soviet Jews and Human Rights
Washington, D.C. “UCSJ joins his family, Bay Area constituents and all
Americans in mourning the passing of Tom Lantos - California’s 12th District
Congressman and chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee - the only
Holocaust Survivor ever elected to the U.S. Congress,” declared Micah H.
Naftalin, UCSJ’s national director in a statement issued today.
“Soviet Jewry activists owed Tom a special debt of gratitude. In the 1970s
and 1980s, he championed our cause in so many ways: a partner in grassroots
activism through his support of UCSJ’s Bay Area Council for Soviet Jews, a
pioneering leader of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, and a committed
leader of the House’ Committee of Conscience Vigil, where members inserted
biographies and messages of support for Refuseniks and Prisoners of
Conscience into the Congressional Record. His wife Annette Lantos co-chaired
UCSJ’s Soviet Jewry Congressional Wives committee for more than a decade.
“Our paths crossed many times over the decades, in connection with promoting
Holocaust remembrance as well as Soviet Jewry and human rights/religious
freedom in the Soviet Union and in the post-Soviet era.,” Naftalin notes. In
the early 1980s, Naftalin served as acting director of the U.S. Holocaust
Memorial Council, when planning and fundraising began for the U.S. Holocaust
Memorial Museum, in the nation’s capital during the chairmanship of Elie
Wiesel. “One of my fondest recollections of that period was working with
Tom and Annette Lantos to get the street name in front of the Museum changed
to Raul Wallenberg Place in honor of the “Righteous” heroism of the diplomat
who saved tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews, including Lantos.
“In his final days, Lantos maintained his priorities, encouraging colleagues
in the House and Senate to offer support to the work of the ‘Coalition
Against Hate,’ a consortium of 30 human rights and religious freedom NGOs in
Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, organized by UCSJ and the Moscow Helsinki
Group,” Naftalin observed.
“The Holocaust, the plight of Soviet Jews, the courage of the Soviet
dissidents and the continuing concern for human rights and religious freedom
in that region are but examples of Tom Lantos’ leadership and advocacy in
the realm of America’s foreign policy. His death is America’s great loss.
UCSJ mourns his passing,” Naftalin concluded.