Hyman H. Bookbinder, 95, a Washington lobbyist for Jewish causes who danced the hora with Betty Ford, sewed his own bow ties and had a recipe for beef cabbage soup that made Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey swoon, died July 21 at the Springhouse assisted living facility in Bethesda. He had complications from dementia.
Mr. Bookbinder — or “Bookie,” as he was known to presidents, senators and civil rights leaders — spent his early Washington career as a lobbyist for the AFL-CIO, assistant director in the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity and poverty adviser to then-Vice President Humphrey.
He served as the American Jewish Committee’s Washington representative for 19 years before retiring in 1986.
His influence derived not only from his network of powerful leaders but also from his appearances on public affairs television shows and testimony before Congress. He wrote scores of opinion essays published in The Washington Post and New York Times on Jewish issues.
He was regarded as an informed and thoughtful voice on difficult political matters by Vice President Walter Mondale, among others, and was known for his consensus-building views.
Mr. Bookbinder was an affirmative-action supporter but did not believe in creating quotas for hiring purposes. He was sometimes criticized, however, by leaders in the civil rights movement for leaning toward “the establishment side of this struggle,” lawyer and activist Joseph L. Rauh Jr. told the New York Times in 1986.
“A goal is a middle position because it does apply pressure on an employer to do the right thing, but it is not a rigid, compulsory system,” Mr. Bookbinder said in response to Rauh.
Mr. Bookbinder said his efforts to promote Jewish causes were galvanized by the loss of 80 relatives in the Holocaust. He worked beside Elie Wiesel to honor Holocaust victims. David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said Mr. Bookbinder had a key role in the planning of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.
Along with championing causes such as foreign aid to Israel, Mr. Bookbinder was a prominent voice on social justice, Harris said.
He picketed alongside Joan Baez on behalf of immigrants. In the early 1960s, he served as an executive officer on a White House task force to eliminate poverty and worked with former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt on the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women.
Mr. Bookbinder told The Washington Post in 1986 that his most cherished possession was a faded banner that read “I Was There” from the 1963 March on Washington.
He stood by the Lincoln Memorial as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. In 1983, when the Senate voted to create a holiday in King’s honor, Mr. Bookbinder joined the civil rights leader’s widow, Coretta Scott King, son Martin Luther King III and singer Stevie Wonder in the gallery for the proceeding.
Hyman Harry Bookbinder, the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland, was born March 9, 1916, in Brooklyn, N.Y. He was a 1937 graduate of the City College of New York and served in the Navy during World War II.
He was an economist with the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America union in the late 1940s. Mr. Bookbinder, who learned tailoring from his father, sewed at least 184 of his own colorful bow ties.
His first wife, Bertha Losev Bookbinder, died in 1976. Survivors include his longtime companion whom he married in 2009, Ida Beecher Leivick of Bethesda; two children from his first marriage, Ellen Cohen of New City, N.Y., and Amy Bookbinder of Leeds, Mass.; and three grandchildren.
Mr. Bookbinder was a frequent White House guest and kept a picture of himself dancing with the late first lady Betty Ford in his home.
When he wasn’t appearing on “Meet the Press” or “Face the Nation,” Mr. Bookbinder spent Sunday mornings in his kitchen.
He told The Post in 1980 that he often cooked his late first wife’s signature recipes, including chopped chicken liver and a beef cabbage soup that Humphrey once called delightful.