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Emanuel Celler Dead at 92

January 19, 1981
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Funeral services were held here today for Emanuel Celler who died last Thursday at the age of 92 from pneumonia. He

served in the House of Representatives for 50 years, from 1922 to 1972, when he was defeated in the Democratic primaries in a stunning upset by Elizabeth Holtzman. The defeat ended one of the longest political careers in Congressional history. He was also chairman for 30 years of the American Mogen Dovid for Israel (ARMDI).

Celler was a proponent of Zionism since he read Theodor Herzl’s “Jewish State” when he was 26 years old. Lewis Rosenberg, ARMDI president, said Celler “was the valiant heart and inspiration of ARMDI, guiding the organization in its efforts on behalf of Israel’s Red Cross service.” He said Celler’s staunch fight for the “noble cause of human rights and as a leader of the Jewish people is incomparable.”

As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee for a record 22 years, from 1949 to 1972, with a two year interruption when the Republicans controlled the House in 1953 and 1954, Celler sponsored in 1957 the first Civil Rights Act since Reconstruction and led in the fight for the civil rights amendments of 1960, 1964, 1965, 1968 and 1970.

He said the most memorable event in his life was the time he stood beside President Truman when the President telephoned the Israeli Ambassador to the United States to say “I have the honor of recognizing Israel as an independent sovereign state.”

Celler had been a director of the Brookdale Hospital Center in Brooklyn and a trustee of the Oscar Strauss Memorial Fund. He had been a member of the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith.

The grandson of German Jewish immigrants, he was born in Brooklyn May 6, 1888. His parents died soon after he entered Columbia College and he worked his way through school by going to classes in the morning and selling wine, his father’s old business, in the afternoon and evening. He graduated from Columbia in 1910 and Columbia Law School in 1912 and then entered the practice of law which he continued throughout his life.

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