Holtzman, Elizabeth J.

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HOLTZMAN, ELIZABETH J. (1941– ), U.S. politician; at age 32 the youngest woman ever elected to the House of Representatives. Holtzman was one of twin children born in Brooklyn, ny, to Sidney and Filia (Ravitz) Holtzman. A graduate of Radcliffe College (B.A., 1962) and Harvard University Law School (J.D., 1965), "Liz" began her political activism in her student years as a participant in the Civil Rights movement. Between periods of private law practice, she briefly served as Mayor John V. Lindsay's liaison to the New York Department of Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs (1969–70). Holtzman became increasingly active in New York Democratic politics and she defeated 50-year incumbent Emanuel *Celler in the 1972 U.S. Congressional race to represent Brooklyn's 16th Congressional District. She was re-elected to the succeeding three Congresses (1973–80). She made history as a key player on the House Judiciary Committee during the 1974 Watergate hearings and she later voted to impeach President Richard Nixon. Holtzman was committed to bringing former Nazi war criminals living in the United States to justice. As chair of the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and International Law she wrote and passed through Congress the Holtzman Amendment, authorizing the deportation of Nazi war criminals and the establishment of the special investigation unit at the Justice Department. She co-authored the first refugee law in the United States, which helped thousands of Jewish refugees from the former Soviet Union enter the U.S. in the late 1970s and 1980s. Holtzman lost in a three-way race in 1980 for a New York U.S. Senate seat and was later elected district attorney for Kings County (Brooklyn), becoming the first female district attorney in the City of New York (1982–1989.) Elected as New York City Comptroller (1990–1993) she maximized city pension funds enabling the expansion of employment opportunities and low-cost housing. After a second failed bid for the U.S. Senate (1992), and loss of the comptroller's seat (1993) Holtzman returned to private law practice. She was appointed in 1999 by President Clinton to the Nazi War Criminal Records Interagency Working Group (iwg). Honors for outstanding public service include awards from the National Council on Jewish Women, Warsaw Ghetto Resistance Organization, Brooklyn Coalition for Soviet Jewry, Radcliffe College, Civil Liberties Unions of New York, New Jersey and Los Angeles and the Young Women's Christian Association. Her autobiography, Who Said It Would Be Easy? One Woman's Life in the Political Arena, written with Cynthia L. Cooper, appeared in 1996.


E. Lederhendler, "Holtzman, Elizabeth," in: Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia (P.E. Hyman and D.D. Moore, eds.), Vol. 1 (1997), 657–59.

[Judith Friedman Rosen (2nd ed.)]

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