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Jerry Finkelstein, 1916-2012


The Hill’s founder, Jerry Finkelstein, died last week at the age of 96.

Hundreds of mourners packed Temple Emanu-El, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, on Nov. 30, to mark his passing and to celebrate the life of a man who was an influential force in business and politics for more than 60 years.

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Although he was a lifelong Democrat and chairman of the party in New York City, Finkelstein was bipartisan in his influence and friendships. Among those who sought his company, counsel and help over the decades were Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, giants of the Democratic Party, but also Republican New York Gov. and then Vice President Nelson Rockefeller.

The admiration in which he continued to be held on both sides of the aisle was evident at last week’s memorial service, where former Gov. Mario Cuomo (D-N.Y.) and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R-N.Y.) added their tributes to those of Finkelstein’s family, led by his two sons, James Finkelstein and Andrew Stein. James Finkelstein continues as chairman of The Hill’s parent company, News Communications.

During his long and varied life, Jerry Finkelstein was chairman of the New York City planning commission; commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; and was appointed by President Kennedy to be chairman of the Fine Arts Gift Committee of the National Cultural Center, the precursor to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Finkelstein was also owner and publisher of The New York Law Journal, a must-read for lawyers and judges, and started and built many other businesses.

But it is as the founder of The Hill that Finkelstein is most remembered here at the news organization he created in 1994. His decision to launch a newspaper covering Congress transformed congressional publishing and began its development into one of the world’s most competitive news markets. For that, the congressional community in general, and we at The Hill in particular, owe Jerry Finkelstein a continuing debt of gratitude.

Finkelstein was born on Jan. 26, 1916, and was educated at New York University and New York Law School. In 1942 he married Shirley Marks, who died in 2003. He is survived by his sons and by eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.