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Reform Jewish Movement Saddened By Loss of Albert E. Arent

Contact: Rachel Slomovitz
202.387.2800 |

Washington, DC, November 1, 2006 – The Religious Action Center leadership and staff are saddened to announce the passing of Albert E. Arent, former Chair of the Commission on Social Actionof Reform Judaism. Albert E. Arent, attorney and educator, dedicated much of his life to humanitarian causes and the pursuit of civil liberties, civil rights, and social justice. After graduating Cornell University and its Law School in 1935, he came to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Roosevelt Administration. In 1939, Arent joined the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Liberties Unit to be part of the adventure.

Throughout his life Arent had been active in issues of particular concern to the American Jewish community. He served as chairman of local and national organizations such as the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington, the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, and the Social Action Commission of Reform Judaism, where his efforts focused particularly on national policy issues such as immigration and civil rights. In addition, he was a founding member and life-long trustee of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, a trustee of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a founding member and member of the governing boards of Common Cause and of the National Urban Coalition. He served as a member of the Cornell University Board of Trustees and as Chairman of the Cornell Law School Advisory Council.

For his work in both the public and private sectors Albert Arent had received numerous awards, among them Cornell University Law School’s Distinguished Alumnus Award, the Distinguished Service Award of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the prestigious Judge Learned Hand Award of the American Jewish Committee, named after the distinguished Senior Justice of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, universally recognized as a staunch advocate of civil rights.

Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center, observed: “No one was more helpful to me when I first came to Washington. First, our families’ connection went back to the late 1920s and 1930s, when Al and my father were classmates at Cornell.When I came to DC in 1974 to assume the directorship of the RAC, Al had just assumed the CSA Chairmanship from Sen. Howard Metzenbaum. He was the onewhom I would turn to for advice and guidance, and his judgment was consistently wise, his vision quietly inspiring. One of the most respected and brilliant lawyers in Washington, his story (as the biography reflects), was a story of Jewish involvement in almost all of the great social justice issues for the past 75 years. Al’s habit of reading voraciously and thoughtfully on legal and political matters stayed with him until the end of his life. When I would visit him over these past years in Florida through his 95th birthday, every visit left me learning things I had not known before. In 1980 when the URJ board considered selling the RAC building and renting office space, Al led the successful opposition. His wife Fran made a significant personal contribution to the renovation of the building that together with a generous gift from Norma and David Levitt was indispensable in allowing us to retain the Center. I will miss Al’s friendship and guidance deeply.”

Al Vorspan, Director Emeritus of the Commission on Social Action and Vice President Emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism, recalls Mr. Arent as a “remarkably effective chairperson of the Social Action Commission who worked with usover the past 50 years. He was clearheaded, very smart and very gutsy. As Chairman he skillfully guided the Reform Jewish Movement during a tumultuous time: the shaping of a position on affirmative action. He was a calm, determined, and effective leader.”

He is survived by a son, Stephen W. Arent of Denver, Colorado; a daughter, Margery Arent Safir, of Paris, France; a brother, Marvin Arent of Salt Lake City, Utah; five grandchildren (Laurie Arent Plotkin, Lindsey Arent, Alexander Arent Grouet, James Arent, Madison Arent); nieces and nephews (Valerie Wyle, Cynthia Marin, Jeffrey Klurfeld, Patrice Arent, Shereen Arent).

All condolence notes can be sent to:

The Arent Family
6620 Boca Del Mar Drive
Apt. 608
Boca Raton, FL33433


The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the
Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and theCentral Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis.


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