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Former Lawmaker Was Fixture in Cherry Hill

April 6, 2011 By:
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John Adler

When Lance Cpl. Jeremy Kane of Cherry Hill, N.J., was killed in action a year ago in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan, U.S. Rep. John Adler helped expedite the return of his body for a Jewish burial.

Adler, who lost his seat in November, also took the time to visit Kane's mother and brothers on multiple occasions, according to Rabbi Barry Schwartz, who conducted Kane's funeral at Congregation M'kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, N.J., and was a friend of the former congressman.

But now, it is Adler's family that is in mourning. On April 4, the 51-year-old died at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania of complications from a bacterial infection, his law firm Greenberg Traurig announced in a statement.

The centrist Democrat -- who spent nearly two decades in the New Jersey state Senate before winning a congressional seat in 2008 -- was a fixture in the Cherry Hill Jewish community.

According to Schwartz, Adler rarely seemed to miss an event in the lives of his four sons. "He was the epitome of a family man, despite the claims on his time."

Adler lost his own father while still in high school.

Though his name sounds Jewish, Adler was raised Episcopalian. He converted to Judaism two decades ago around the time of his wedding. His kids attended preschool at M'Kor Shalom and later became B'nai Mitzvah at Temple Emanuel. Both are Reform congregations.

An April 6 memorial service was set to take place at Emanuel.

"In addition to being a devoted husband and father, Congressman Adler was a true friend of this, his Jewish community," Joel Kaber, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey, said in a statement.

The graduate of Harvard Law School first entered politics in 1987, when he won a seat on the Cherry Hill Township Council. In 1990, he lost a bid for Congress, a setback that he later said helped him mature.

The candidate that lost that race, Adler said in a 2008 interview, "had one child and all his hair. I hadn't served in the state Senate and didn't really know the problems that middle-aged people go through."

In 1991, he was elected to New Jersey's state Senate but continued to practice law.

In 2002, Adler made his first trip to Israel during the height of the second intifada.

Adler repeatedly maintained his staunch support for the Jewish state and warned against applying too much pressure on Israel in negotiations.

A prodigious campaigner and fundraiser, in 2008, Adler defeated Medford, N.J., Mayor Chris Myers and, in a banner year for Democrats, won a seat long held by the GOP.

An early supporter of candidate Barack Obama, Adler, during his single term, broke with the president over health care legislation.

Schwartz, who disagreed with Adler on the health care issue, said the lawmaker passionately defended his stance in a meeting with area clergy, saying that his father had owned a small business and feared the law would hurt small-business owners.

In 2010, the political tide had swung back to Republicans, and Adler was defeated handily by Republican Jon Runyan, a political neophyte not long retired from the Philadelphia Eagles.

Cherry Hill Mayor Bernie Platt, also active in the Jewish community, said in a statement that "the state of New Jersey and Cherry Hill lost a dedicated public servant who was a bright, energetic and thoughtful advocate for our community."

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