Hyman Bookbinder, longtime AJC rep, dies

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Hyman Bookbinder, the legendary representative in Washington for the American Jewish Committee, has died.

Bookbinder died Thursday at 95, the AJC said in a statement.

Bookbinder joined the AJC’s Washington office in 1967 after working in the Johnson and Kennedy administrations, and as a union official. He directed the AJC office until 1986, when he retired.

"It was at AJC that Bookbinder felt most at home to pursue his passion for the causes dearest to the Jewish people — defense of Israel, civil rights, social policy, Holocaust remembrance, and Soviet Jewry," the AJC said in a statement.

Bookbinder, who helped establish the National Jewish Democratic Council, was a liberal Democrat, but was possessed of a soft-spoken demeanor that earned him entry into Republican offices and friendships with many in that party. He prized his good relations with the Reagan White House.

"With Reagan, you had disagreements but you didn’t get angry with him," he told JTA in 2004, after Reagan died.

Bookbinder, who until he died was known as AJC’s Washington representative emeritus, possessed a deep and broad institutional memory. Long past his retirement, AJC staff would often tell reporters seeking comment, "That’s one for Bookie," and hand over his home number.

The NJDC also mourned his passing.

"On behalf of the entire NJDC family, we extend our deepest condolences to Bookie’s beloved, Ida, his daughters and grandchildren," it said in a statement.

Bookbinder reflected on his career in his memoir, "Off the Wall."

"If it should be true that in my lifetime I have helped even one Jew or one Haitian or one Pole escape persecution; if I have helped even one ghetto youngster escape poverty; if I have helped one daughter of a Tennessee shirtmaker get to play on her own piano. .. If these things are indeed true, then all that is left to say is I thank God that I was given some opportunities to help make life a little easier, a little sweeter, a little more secure, for some fellow human beings," he wrote.

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