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Eric Cantor

CANTOR, ERIC (1963– ), U.S. congressman. The son of Eddie and Mary Lee Cantor, Eric Cantor was born in Richmond, Virginia. As a child he was one of the few Jews to attend Collegiate, an elite private, Protestant-based school. He attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C. In 1980, he became a volunteer in local congressman Thomas Bliley's first reelection campaign. Cantor wound up becoming the congressman's driver and eventually interned in his office. Following his graduation, Cantor attended law school at William and Mary. He received a juris doctor from William and Mary in 1988 and a master of science in real estate from Columbia University. Within a year, 27-year-old Eric Cantor was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, thereby becoming its youngest member.

Cantor married DIANA FINE, a vice president at Goldman Sachs. Both a CPA and an attorney, she was a political power in her own right, becoming executive director of the Virginia College Savings Plan, an independent state agency that helps families save for college. In 2003, Jewish Women International named her "One of Ten Women to Watch."

Along with his wife, Delegate Cantor raised the Jewish community profile in Richmond, Va., where Jews are a distinct minority. They were prime movers in getting the first day of school changed so it would not fall on Rosh Hashanah and helped support a new Holocaust museum in the area.

Cantor's Judaism became the "unspoken issue of his race in 2000 for Congress." Although Cantor never directly blamed his opponent, there were those going around during the election saying that there was "one Christian in the race and it wasn't Eric Cantor." Cantor eventually squeaked by with a 264-vote margin for the nomination and then coasted to a victory in the November general election. At age 37, Cantor had become the only Jewish Republican in the United States House of Representatives.

As a freshman serving in the majority party, Cantor was given seats in two committees: House Financial Services and International Relations. Within four months of his arrival on Capitol Hill, Cantor was picked by House Speaker Dennis Hastert to serve as chair of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare. Cantor also authored the "Temple Mount Preservation Act," legislation that would cut off all aid to the Palestinian Authority until all unauthorized excavations from the Temple Mount ceased.

Cantor easily won reelection in 2002. Upon his return to Washington for the beginning of the 108th Congress, his partisan political prowess was rewarded not once, but twice. He was appointed to the all-powerful Ways and Means Committee and as chief deputy majority whip, the highest appointed position in the House of Representatives.


K.F. Stone; The Almanac of American Politics (2002–2004); The Weekly Standard (Jan. 27, 2003).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.