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When he lost his arm he lost his dream of becoming a surgeon and turned to public service.
Inouye was elected the first full member of Congress from his native Hawaii in 1959. He was also first Japanese-American in the House and later the first in the Senate, eventually becoming the highest-ranking Asian American politician in American history.
Throughout his career he enjoyed close ties to the Jewish community, in Hawaii and nationally, and was consistently one of Israel’s staunchest supporters. His combat experience as a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated Japanese-American unit, in Europe in World War II and learning about the Holocaust affected his worldview. Recovering after the war he studied Jewish history and became a registered Israel Bonds salesman.
“He was a man who saw two injustices - genocide against Native Americans and against Europe’s Jews - and he wanted to make sure the Native Americans got help in their restoration and that Israel had America’s support in securing itself against those who did not wish Israel’s population well and who wished the nation-state did not exist,” said Tom Dine, the former executive director of AIPAC. “He believed in Israel’s nobility.”
One of the last of the Greatest Generation, he saw the Jewish state come into existence and fight for its survival, and he played an important role for more than half a century.
His voice on Israel-related issues carried considerable weight in the Senate not only because he was held in high esteem by his colleagues but also because there was no doubt that his personal political fate was not dependent on Jewish votes or money.
Many Jewish groups also admired him for his relative progressivism, including reproductive rights and civil liberties. The National Jewish Democratic Council called him “a true mensch in every sense of the word.”
“Danny was courage personified,” said Vice President Joe Biden, a former Senate colleague, in a public statement following Inouye’s death.
Douglas Bloomfield was legislative director of the American Israel Public Action Committee from 1980 through 1988.