Beilenson, Anthony Charles

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BEILENSON, ANTHONY CHARLES (Tony ; 1932– ), U.S. congressman. Beilenson was born in New Rochelle, New York. His parents, Peter and Edna Beilenson, were both first cousins of the Hebrew journalist-writer-translator Moshe *Beilenson (1889–1936). Like their cousin, Peter and Edna Beilenson were involved in publishing; their firm, the Peter Pauper Press, was one of the most successful small presses operating in the United States from the 1930s to the 1950s.

At 16, Beilenson matriculated into Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts – the alma mater of many U.S. lawmakers. Following his graduation in 1950, he entered Harvard, going on to graduate from both Harvard College (1954) and its school of law (1957) before striking out for California. Moving to the Los Angeles area, Beilenson spent two years working for a Beverly Hills law firm. A liberal Democrat, Beilenson was elected to the California State Assembly in 1963 and the State Senate in 1965. In his more than decade-long tenure in the California State Senate, he authored more than 200 pieces of legislation. Highly esteemed by both his fellow legislators and members of the press, Beilenson was named best all-around senator by the state capitol press corps and most effective senator in a poll of his Senate colleagues.

In 1976, Beilenson was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, a post he would hold for the next 20 years. During his tenure in Congress, Beilenson served on the all-important House Rules Committee, where he became the point man on all Jewish and Israel-related issues. Within the House, Beilenson gained a reputation for being a "straight arrow, a man whose integrity is beyond reproach." Beilenson also served as chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Beilenson's legislative interests ranged from budget reform and "covert-action language" for federal intelligence-gathering agencies to restrictions on U.S. imports of elephant ivory. Through Beilenson's efforts, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species eventually ordained a worldwide ban on trade in elephant ivory in 1989. On his many trips abroad, he always made it a point to have the U.S. State Department set up meetings with local Jewish groups and then have prominent Jews invited to American embassy dinners.

Beilenson voted against American involvement in the 1991 Gulf War. Reflecting on that vote, he said, "I don't like Americans systematically inflicting great violence and punishment on another people without absolutely compelling reasons for doing so. I don't like the fact that we are killing thousands of human beings who have not harmed any of us, and who have no capability of doing so. I regret that we didn't have the sense, the imagination, the wit, to deal with the problem in a way that could have produced the desired results without going to war." After serving ten two-year terms, Beilenson retired from Congress in January 1997.


K.F. Stone, The Congressional Minyan: The Jews of Capitol Hill (2000), 12–15.

[Kurt Stone (2nd ed.)]