Samuel Rappaport was a Philadelphian born and raised.
Samuel Rappaport, 83, was a Philadelphian born and raised.
He served the Philadelphia community as a lawyer, ward leader and Democratic member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1971 to 1984.
He passed away on Feb. 8 from dementia at Lions Gate retirement community in Voorhees.
Rappaport was a graduate of Central High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Temple University and a law degree from Columbia University.
He served in the U.S. Army’s Third Infantry Division for two years after the World War II, then continued his law career.
He was a member of the Fifth Ward Democratic Executive Committee and a delegate to Pennsylvania’s Constitutional Convention.
His son, David Rappaport, remembers their days spent in Harrisburg together, sitting on his lap in the House of Representatives pushing the red and green voting buttons.
As an only child, David attended a lot of political gatherings with his father. He recalled election nights as a “political kiddush,” everyone laughing and smiling together in a pub.
Aside from his political and law career, Rappaport also owned commercial real estate.
“As a result of not having brothers or sisters,” David said, “I spent a tremendous amount of time with him on weekends, particularly because my father, in addition to being very active in politics, also owned commercial real estate. Memories that are the strongest for me are of just talking about life while sitting in the car driving to look at properties,” sometimes stopping for root beer floats, he added.
These memories are significant parts of David’s childhood and representative of his father.
“My father was passionate about politics. It was very obvious that that was what he loved more than anything, more than his career. His career was a way to make money. Politics was a way to effect change,” he explained.
Rappaport was an Orthodox Jew who lived in Center City for most of his life.
“Politics and being involved in making the city of Philadelphia a better place for everyone was really, truly his passion,” he said. “It’s so integral to who he was.”
David recalled one of the most important laws Rappaport passed for the Jewish community: the kosher food labeling law in Pennsylvania, which essentially ended the sale of deceptive kosher food products, eliminating the concept of “kosher-style.”
“My father never backed away from a challenge, and to me, when you look at the kosher food labeling law concept in Pennsylvania or anywhere, you really have a dance to do between factions of Judaism, factions of people that don’t think government should be involved with religion — and my father was obsessed with the concept of separation of church and state,” he explained.
In the eulogy David wrote for his father, he said he was a proud American Jew.
“He was a part of the machinery of our government, most confident in his power to do good, provided his leadership did not stray,” he said. “It was not enough to merely have belief in what was right, but one must act to do what is right. To do anything less would be to cheat yourself in this world. It’s not what you know; it’s what you do with what you know.”
The funeral was held on Feb. 10 at Goldsteins’ Rosenberg’s Raphael-Sacks, and contributions are asked to be made in his memory to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) at 7925 Jones Branch Dr., Suite 1100, McLean, VA, 22102.
Mr. Rappaport is survived by his son, David; his wife, Rivka; two grandchildren; and his brother, Louis.