The son of poor immigrants, Sen. Frank Lautenburg remembered as a giant of liberal and Jewish causes, and critical advocate for Soviet emigrés.
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About a dozen years ago, Frank Lautenberg, then the senior U.S. senator from New Jersey, was invited to serve as keynote speaker at a naturalization ceremony for new citizens that New Jersey’s Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest was hosting.
Imagine more than a quarter-million American Jews — Democrats and Republicans, observant and secular, and individuals representing the entire spectrum of Israeli politics — gathering at one time, in one place, with a single unified message on behalf of fellow Jews, in the name of the universal principle of freedom.
If you are older than 40, and were connected in any way to the Jewish community in 1987, chances are you don’t have to imagine. You can remember.
A day after the Jewish Federations of North America voted to stop automatically channeling funds for Israel through the Jewish Agency, its chairman downplayed the major shift in diaspora relations as “technical disagreements” during an appearance in New York.
Okay, my secret is out: I'm retiring after 24 years on this beat for the Jewish Week (please hold your applause and your decaying vegetables). It seems like the right time to reflect on the changes I've seen in the Jewish world and Jewish politics during that period.
Many of the activists I met way back in the day are still toiling in Washington, and some of the issues that preoccupied them more than two decades ago are still in play, while others are long forgotten. How many remember the Lautenberg Amendment? In 1987, it was on the lips of most Jewish leaders.
'Twas the day before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except, of course, Henry Kissinger’s publicists and strategists who decided that the slowest news day of the year was the perfect time for him to apologize, sort of, for telling Richard Nixon in 1973 that “if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”
'Kissinger, in addition to being the quintessential court Jew, is also a hypocrite.'
Menachem Z. Rosensaft
Special to the Jewish Week
I cannot remember reading anything as despicable or callous as Henry Kissinger’s observation, captured for posterity on secret White House recordings newly released by the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, that “The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy. And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”
WASHINGTON (JTA) -- Henry Kissinger is heard saying the genocide of Soviet Jews would not be an American concern on newly released tapes chronicling President Nixon's obsession with disparaging Jews and other minorities.
Kissinger's remarks come after a meeting between the two men and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir on March 1 1973, in which Meir pleads for U.S. pressure on the Soviet Union to release its Jews.