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Belin, David William
(June 20, 1928–January 17, 1999)

–distinguished lawyer, accomplished musician, appointed member of two national commissions, author of several books and other publications, generous philanthropist, tireless proponent of the universal values of Judaism, and initiator of outreach programs for interfaith families—was born in Washington, D.C., to Louis I. and Esther (Klass) Belin. In the early 1940s the Belins (including David's younger brother Daniel) moved to Sioux City to help run the Klass family produce company during World War II. Belin graduated from Sioux City Central High School in 1946. Although he had been admitted to the Juilliard School of Music, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served a tour of duty in Japan and Korea. During part of his military stint, he was a concert violinist in the Armed Forces Special Services.

    With the support of the G.I. Bill, Belin enrolled at the University of Michigan in 1948. He received a bachelor's degree in 1951, master of business administration degree in 1953, and law degree in 1954. He was associate editor of the Michigan Law Review and initiated into Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, Delta Sigma Rho (forensics), Beta Alpha Psi (accounting), and Order of the Coif. In 1954 Belin moved to Des Moines, joining the law firm of Herrick and Langdon. In 1978 he and other lawyers continued a successor firm known today as Belin Lamson McCormick Zumbach Flynn. The National Law Journal listed Belin three times as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in the United States. Among his specialties were corporate and constitutional law, taxation, and estate planning. In 1993 he published a book titled Leaving Money Wisely: Creative Estate Planning for Middle- and Upper-Income Americans for the 1990s.

    Appointment to two national investigative and oversight commissions thrust Belin into the public limelight. In 1964 he was chosen by Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren to be a legal counsel to the Warren Commission investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. An outspoken critic of the many conspiracy theories (including Oliver Stone's 1991 film, JFK), Belin published two books on the Kennedy assassination: November 22, 1963: You Are the Jury and Final Disclosure: The Full Truth about the Assassination of President Kennedy. In 1975 President Gerald Ford appointed Belin executive director of the Rockefeller Commission, which was charged with investigating the scope and legality of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) activities in the United States.

    While at the University of Michigan, Belin met Constance Newman, and they married in 1952. Constance Belin (a member of the Iowa Board of Regents, 1977-1980, and a member of the West Des Moines School Board, 1975- 1977) died in 1980. The Belins had five children: Jonathan, James, Joy, Thomas, and Laura. In 1992 Belin married Barbara Ross; they maintained residences in Des Moines and New York City.

    David and Constance Belin were active members of Temple B'nai Jeshurun in Des Moines and involved in many philanthropic projects over the years: the Iowa Foundation for Education, Environment and the Arts; the Civic Music Endowment in Des Moines; the Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development at the University of Iowa (with the Blank family); the David W. Belin Lectureship in American Jewish Affairs at the University of Michigan; and grants assisting the Iowa Jewish Historical Society museum.

    For many years Belin worked tirelessly with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) to foster Reform Judaism and create a community that welcomed interfaith couples interested in perpetuating those ideals. He was the founding chair of the UAHC Outreach Program, chair of the UAHC/CCAR Commission on Outreach, vice-chair of the UAHC board of trustees, and chair of the North American Board of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. He was a cofounder of the Center for the Study of Interfaith Marriage at the City University of New York and the Jewish Outreach Institute in New York City. Pursuant to those activities, Belin was the author of a number of reports, articles, and two booklets: Why Choose Judaism: New Dimensions of Jewish Outreach, and Choosing Judaism: An Opportunity for Everyone.

    Belin died as a result of a fall in his hotel room in Rochester, Minnesota, while there for his annual checkup at the Mayo Clinic. His death was noted not only in American newspapers but in the Jerusalem Post as well.
Sources Biographical information is in Contemporary Authors (1980 and 1999 editions); Who's Who in America (1982–1983); and obituaries.
Contributor: David Mayer Gradwohl