Former Sen. Warren Rudman, veteran of national defense matters, dies at 82

(JTA) — Warren Rudman, a former U.S. senator from New Hampshire who focused on national security matters, has died.

Rudman, a Republican whose backing of the Reagan administration’s $8.5 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia put him at odds with the Jewish establishment, died late Monday due to complications from lymphoma. He was 82.

As a freshman in 1981, Rudman was one of six Jewish senators to support the Reagan administration’s $8.5 billion sale of AWACS reconnaissance planes and other arms to Saudi Arabia. The Jewish establishment lobbied extensively against the sale, which the Senate passed narrowly, for fear that it would pose a threat to Israel’s security.

“I for one am willing to trust in Israel’s strength and understanding in order to take a step which may have more far-reaching consequences than the simple physical placement of five radar planes within a single country’s boundaries,” Rudman said on the Senate floor in October 1981.

One of Rudman’s greatest concerns while serving his two terms as a senator was national security.

“I’m concerned the U.S. will be a second-rate power by the end of this decade if something is not done and done right away,” Rudman told JTA’s Joseph Polakoff at the outset of his inaugural term in 1981.

After leaving the Senate in 1993, Rudman was a member of a federal commission that explored violence between Israel and Palestinians under the Clinton administration. Months before the 9/11 attacks, Rudman was part of a commission that called for the creation of a Department of Homeland Security, according to the Boston Herald.

A third-generation American Jew of Baltic and Russian ancestry, Rudman was born in Boston and attended Valley Forge Military Academy and Syracuse University. He was awarded a Bronze Star for heroism under fire during his service as an infantry captain in the Korean War.

A lawyer by profession, he served as New Hampshire’s attorney general. He unseated the state’s Democratic incumbent, John Durkin, to win his Senate seat in 1980.

Like JTA on Facebook for updates on Jewish news, photos and more.

Click to write a letter to the editor.