At a Glance
- Career History: President and CEO, Institute on Holocaust and Law (1998-2000); Huntington, N.Y. Town Board (1993-2000)
- Birthday: May 30, 1958
- Hometown: Wantaugh, N.Y.
- Alma Mater: George Washington University, B.A. 1983
- Spouse: Marlene Budd
- Religion: Jewish
- DC Office: 2457 Rayburn House Office Bldg, Washington, DC 20515Phone: 202-225-3335
- State/District Office: 150 Motor Pkwy Ste 108, Hauppauge, N.Y. 11788Phone: 631-951-2210 or 516-505-1448
- Web site
Path to Power
Born in 1958, Israel grew up in Wantaugh on Long Island. He attended George Washington University, where he became involved in politics and worked as a congressional aide first for Rep. Robert Matsui (D-Calif.) and later for Rep. Robert Ottinger (D-N.Y.) After graduating in 1983, Israel joined the American Jewish Congress as its Suffolk County director in New York. He made his first run for elective office in 1987, mounting a failed bid to unseat a conservative incumbent in the Suffolk County legislature.
"It helped me develop a pretty thick skin," Israel said about the loss in a 2000 interview with Newsday. "You have to get politically tough when you walk into a room that is 99 percent Republican to make a case for your candidacy."
Though he votes far more often with his fellow House Democrats than Republicans, Israel has crafted an image as a centrist who espouses bipartisanship. He joined the fiscally-conservative Blue Dog Coalition upon his election to the House, but in 2005 he co-founded a separate group known as the bipartisan Center Aisle Caucus.
By 2008, the group claimed 60 members and held its meetings at a Chinese restaurant on Capitol Hill. "We would prefer to act where we can have agreement rather than scream at each other over contentious issues where we would never agree," Israel said in describing the group's philosophy.
In the House, Israel has forged alliances with members of both parties. He works often with the other Long Island members of Congress, including Reps. Tim Bishop (D), Carolyn McCarthy (D), Peter King (R), and Gary Ackerman (D), whose district also includes parts of Queens. Israel partnered with Rep. Tim Johnson (R-Ill.) to form the Center Aisle Caucus in 2005.
On the national scene, Israel has had to work himself back into the favor of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) after supporting her then-rival, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) in a race for minority whip in 2001. He says any ill-will has long been forgotten, and he headed the DCCC in the 2012 cycle.