FEINGOLD, RUSSELL


FEINGOLD, RUSSELL
FEINGOLD, RUSSELL (1953– ), U.S. senator. Feingold was born in Janeville, Wisc., which had a small Jewish community and no synagogue, so Feingold and his sister were taken on a 90-mile round trip to attend Hebrew school at a Reform congregation. As a high school student he won the state debating championship and then went on to earn his B.A. with honors from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he was elected to Phi Betta Kappa. He then attended Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship (1976) and then Harvard Law School (LL.B., 1979). His interest in politics was intense and after a few years in private practice, at the age of 29 he was elected to the Wisconsin State Senate, where he served for 10 years, earning his spurs as chair of the Committee on Aging, Banking, and Communication. He challenged incumbent Senator Robert Kasten (R-WI) who had heavy support from the Jewish community because of his chairmanship of the influential Foreign Operations Sub-Committee of the Appropriations Committee, the sub-committee where foreign aid is allocated. Despite Feingold's clear Jewish identity, under the incumbency rule, pro-Israel PACS and politically active Jews supported Kasten. If an incumbent had a strong pro-Israel record, Jewish political activists continued their support regardless of whom the challenger   was. Thus, Feingold was widely outspent. Characteristically, he made light of his lack of Jewish support, expressing shock that his support for Israel and Jewish bona-fides were called into question. "I am the only candidate for the Senate whose sister is a rabbi living in Israel," he would say. Feingold made his modest support a badge of honor. He won a surprising victory. In the Senate Feingold was a fiscal hawk, attacking un-warranted expenditures in the federal budget. His national prominence came from his co-sponsorship with Senator John McCain of the McCain-Feingold bill that attempted to limit campaign spending and soft-money contributions. They did not succeed in passing their bill during his first term. Feingold placed stringent restrictions on his own fundraising for reelection. Caught in a close race, he refused an offer of $500,000 from the Democratic National Committee and voters gave him a narrow victory. McCain-Feingold finally became law early in the Bush Administration. And once again in his reelection bid of 2004, Feingold held fast to his own standards despite serious political opposition. His positions were generally liberal. Feingold voted against an antiterrorism measure because he objected to its provisions regarding inmates on death row. He fought a constitutional amendment to prohibit flag burning in keeping with Wisconsin's progressive tradition. He was an early and consistent opponent of the war in Iraq, believing that it diverted attention from the fight against terrorism. Though Wisconsin had fewer than 30,000 Jews it was represented by a second Jewish senator as well, herbert kohl . -BIBLIOGRAPHY: L.S. Maisel and I. Forman, Jews in American Politics (2001); K.F. Stone, The Congressional Minyan: The Jews of Capitol Hill (2002). (Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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