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Rochelle Berkley

(1951- )

BERKLEY, ROCHELLE (1951– ), U.S. congresswoman. Rochelle (Shelley) Berkley, the elder of William and Estella (Colonomos) Levine's two daughters, was born in New York City. She was raised in the Catskill community of South Falls-burg, where her father worked at the famed Concord Hotel. In the early 1960s the family moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, where William found employment with the Sands Hotel; he would remain at the Sands for 36 years, the last ten as the hotel's maître d'.

During Berkley's formative years in Las Vegas, the city had a Jewish population of no more than 2,500. Berkley's mother served as president of the local Hadassah, while Shelly was elected president of the Las Vegas chapter of B'nai B'rith Girls. Berkley attended the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, where she was elected student body president, and graduated from the law school of the University of California at San Diego. Returning to Las Vegas, she worked as deputy director of the Nevada State Commerce Department and as counsel for the Southwest Gas Corporation. Following a two-year stint (1982–84) in the Nevada State Legislature, Berkley became vice president for government and legal affairs for the Sands Hotel. In this position, she served as in-house counsel for Sands' chairman Sheldon Adelson, the man who virtually invented the computer trade show.

In 1998 Berkley ran as a Democrat for one of Nevada's two seats in the United States House of Representatives. Elected by a small margin, Berkley continued to be reelected by the people of Las Vegas. Her campaign brought her to the attention of national Democratic party leaders. Once elected, she was given a seat on the prestigious House International Relations Committee. As a member of the subcommittee on the Middle East, Berkley was an ardent supporter of Israel. Berkley also served on the Congressional Task Force on Antisemitism. During her first campaign for Congress Berkley was diagnosed with osteoporosis. Shocked to discover that her medical insurance did not cover the costs of a bone scan, she became an ardent supporter of the "Patients' Bill of Rights." This measure, which eventually fell short of passage, would have guaranteed that medical decisions be made by doctors and patients rather than by medical insurance carriers.


K.F. Stone, The Congressional Minyan: The Jews of Capitol Hill (2000), 26–29.

[Kurt Stone (2nd ed.)]

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