Senate Celebrates Jewish American Heritage Month

By Reuvain Borchardt

Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., speaking. At right is honoree Morris Oiring. Seated second from left is Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate hosted a celebration Thursday of Jewish Heritage Month, an annual recognition by both houses of Congress of the contributions of Jewish Americans and the importance of vigilance against antisemitism, to ensure that the United States remains a safe haven for the Jewish people.

“We take for granted the blessings [of freedom] that we have inherited,” said Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. “But there’s something profoundly true about Jews, and I say blacks as well: You never get too secure. The history won’t allow you ever to get too comfortable.”

Booker, the first black senator from New Jersey, who has many longstanding Jewish friendships and enjoys showing off his knowledge of Judaism, joked in response to emcee Greg Rosenbaum’s quip that Booker is the eleventh Jewish senator, “My aspiration is not to be the eleventh Jewish senator; if Bill Clinton can be the first black president, I want to be the first Jewish president!”

Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., whose father is Jewish, discussed the journey of his Jewish relatives from Europe to Ellis Island more than a century ago. “They came here with virtually nothing, fleeing antisemitism in their ancestral homeland,” said Ossoff, 36, the youngest member of the upper chamber. “When I was sworn in to the U.S. Senate, in the Senate chamber I had in my back pocket the ships’ manifests and documents.”

All but one of Ossoff’s father’s ancestors who remained in Europe perished in the Holocaust.

“I remember as a very young child spending time with my uncle Nate, and feeling the numbers that were tattooed into his arm, and struggling to understand.”

Many of the more than a dozen Members of Congress who spoke discussed the rising numbers of antisemitic attacks, and the important role of Holocaust education in schools can play in stemming that tide.

“This is a crisis,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) of New Hampshire, describing how antisemitic crimes have nearly doubled over the past four years, according to the Anti-Defamation League statistics. “It’s important for us to take a stand.”

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the senior member of New York’s delegation and final speaker at the event, centered his speech around his support for former President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, which was highly controversial in the pro-Israel community of both Republicans and some moderate Democrats.

“The Iranian leadership,” Nadler said, “in the name of God … want to destroy Israel, and for that purpose were developing nuclear weapons … In 2015, under the leadership of President Obama, and I must add, Putin, the British prime minister and several others at the time, the Iranians were forced into an agreement, under various threats, to stop developing nuclear weapons, and with proper and intrusive inspections were held for 12 months from being able to develop enough uranium and plutonium for one nuclear weapon.

“A few years ago, President Trump, for reasons I did not understand, withdrew us from that agreement. And now the Iranians are two weeks from developing enough uranium and plutonium for a nuclear weapon. They haven’t decided to weaponize it yet, but they could at any moment. At present, some Europeans are trying to reenter this agreement, but that’s probably not going to happen. So it’s a great danger … to peace in the world but above all to Israel, as Israel celebrates its 75th anniversary.”

Israel and its advocates maintain that support for Israel is and must remain bipartisan on Capitol Hill, despite some Congressmembers, particularly on the extreme Left, being vocally anti-Israel.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said the relationship between the two countries is important both “to Israel and the United States.”

“We both benefit from the security, from the technology, from the econmic partnerships, from the intelligence information that a country that shares our value in a very challenged part of the world,” said the 79-year-old, long-time Israel supporter, who is retiring from Congress at the end of this term. “We have maintained that support among Democrats, Repoublicans, House, Senate, Congress and the White House, and it’s our responsibility to make sure that we do not allow Israel to become a partisan wedge issue.”

Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Executive Vice President of American Friends of Chabad Lubavitch, related recent experiences he had with leadership of both parties have stood up in support of Israel and Jews in America. “We have to remember,” Rabbi Shemtov said, that there are some who have taken antisemitic or anti-Jewish stances “on the extremes, but we have many more wonderful people more towards the center, and if we embrace them all, we’ll be the majority of the country.”

The event, held in the Kennedy Caucus Room of the Senate’s Russell Office Building, was coordinated by publicist Ezra Friedlander, and honored New York business executive Morris Oiring.

Photos courtesy of Lenchevsky Images/The Friedlander Group

Rabbi Levi Shemtov shaking hands with Greg Rosenbaum, a Maryland businessman and emcee of the event.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., shaking hands with Ezra Friedlander. Greg Rosenbaum is incenter.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, reviews his remarks with Ezra Friedlander.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.

Cryptocurrency pioneer Brock Pierce (L) with technology entrepreneur Ryan Breslow.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.

To Read The Full Story

Are you already a subscriber?
Click to log in!