Gary Ackerman is a former Jewish American Congressman who served for twenty years in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Ackerman (born November 19, 1942) was born in Brooklyn, New York into a Jewish family who had immigrated to the United States from Russia and Poland a generation earlier. He graduated from Queens College in 1965 and became a New York City schoolteacher in Queens.
His first major "political" appearance came in 1969 when he successfully sued the New York City Board of Education in a landmark case to establish the right of either parent to receive unpaid leave to care for a newborn child.
Ackerman was first elected to public office in 1978 as a member of the New York State Senate. State Senator Ackerman was then elected to Congress in 1983 in a special election. Ackerman represented the central Queens area until 1992, when redistricting moved his district to the current configuration in Northeast Queens and Northern Long Island. From 1993 to 2013, Ackerman representaed the 5th District of New York.
Ackerman was a senior member of the House International Relations Committee and he played major roles in national security, nuclear proliferation and terrorism issues in areas such as Israel and the Middle East, Northern Ireland, Asia and Latin America. He also served on the Banking and Financial Services Committee and was Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans.
Ackerman is well known for his efforts to feed the starving people of Ethiopia and for playing a leading role in the rescue of Ethiopian Jews and their emigration to Israel. In January 1996, Ackerman ventured to India, enduring sub-freezing temperatures in an attempt to secure the release of four western hostages. Ackerman also convinced the German government to establish a $110 million fund to compensate 18,000 Holocaust survivors and to investigate whether 3300 former Nazi soldiers collecting German pensions in the U.S. are war criminals.