There are two kinds of leaders: those who will do everything to remain personally relevant and those who will risk all for the welfare of their people.
No Hold’s Barred: Our man in Washington
By Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
Now that some of the noise of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress has subsided and the Israeli election is behind us, it’s time to pay tribute to an unsung hero of the Jewish people, whose every moment is dedicated to its protection and defense. I speak of our man in Washington, Ambassador Ron Dermer.
Working in the Jewish community is often daily testimony to the adage that no good deed goes unpunished. Let us begin to change that and offer credit and thanks where it is due.
In my many years of communal involvement I have learned that there are two kinds of leaders: those who will do everything to remain personally relevant and those who will risk all for the welfare of their people.
I have known Ron for nearly a quarter of a century. He cares little for personal viability and is bereft of vanity. His every waking moment is focused on the safety of Israel and the security of the Jewish people.
He is that rare man defined almost entirely by unshakable values and convictions.
I am in the people business and rarely have I met a man whose essence can be distilled to one fundamental principle, in this case a belief that a vulnerable people who have done nothing to warrant the hatred arrayed against them need suffer no longer.
Ron is a brilliant student of history.
He knows the Jewish people face – as we’ll recite this year again in the Passover Haggada – an enemy “who rises in every generation to annihilate us.”
That enemy right now is Iran. They are open about their goals. They are brazen about their intentions. They do not conceal their animus. Their leadership, especially Ayatollah Ali Khameini who oversees the world’s largest terror apparatus, speaks regularly about Israel “having no cure but annihilation.”
Ambassador Dermer is out to stop Iran from getting a bomb. That’s his job. He is the personal representative of the government of Israel to the world’s sole superpower.
And that superpower is about to sign a deal with the world’s most brutal and anti-Semitic government that will leave them a nuclear power.
What would you do in his position? Would you remain silent? Would you put your invitations to Georgetown cocktail parties first? Would you worry about precedence at the White House Hanukka party? Or would you be using your razor-sharp intellect and vast erudition on world events to spread the knowledge of the threat posed to your people? As we experience the confusing sight of an American administration critical of the choice of the Middle East’s sole democracy as to their elected leadership, we are also witnessing many American Jews going silent, afraid to be swept up in the maelstrom. Better to duck until the storm settles.
I can do no such thing. Not when it involves someone I know so well and admire so much. And and not when the stakes are this high.
I will speak and offer testimony to the facts: That I had the privilege of being Ron Dermer’s rabbi at Oxford University. That I have rarely known a man of purer principle or a prouder Jew. That our organization, the second largest student group at the university, flourished under his presidency. That even as a student he possessed a rare gift of eloquence that he employed in the service of Israel’s name and reputation at the world’s most prestigious university.
That he was the close friend at Oxford of Arab students from prestigious Middle East houses who loved and respected him. That he was a loyal and devoted friend to all in his circle and has forever remained so.
That he decided to move to Israel and cast his lost with the Israeli people amid limitless opportunity in the United States. That he quickly rose to become the senior adviser to the prime minister of Israel by virtue of kaleidoscopic knowledge, sterling character, and wisdom well beyond his years.
That he earned the job of ambassador by virtue of being one of the most compelling spokesmen for Israel in the English language. Period.
That during last summer’s war in Gaza he rose to new heights as an advocate for his country in global media. And that since becoming ambassador he has boldly stood up for Israel’s interests while others have wilted under unimaginable pressure.
I long to live in a Jewish community that salutes courage and rewards conviction.
I long to live in a community where fighting for Jewish survival is treated as gallantry and not paranoia. And I long to live in a Jewish community that defends its defenders and protects its protectors.
I don’t care what you think motivated Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to Congress. You might think that he did it to be reelected. Or to score political points. Or to save the Jewish people from an Iranian genocide.
The motivation does not much matter, especially now that the election is over.
The speech was absolutely essential to bringing awareness to the American people of the dangers of Iran, and succeeded in sparking a serious and ongoing debate about the Iranian nuclear deal amid the Administration keeping most, including Congress, largely in the dark.
The Jewish leadership in the United States, who knew Ambassador Dermer from his days as the Prime Minister’s right hand, looks up to him as someone who is approachable, engaging, warm, and brilliant.
And unlike Israeli members of the Knesset who can view the United States from across an ocean, they know that Ambassador Dermer has one of the hardest jobs currently on Planet Earth, namely, to stand up for a threatened people all while having to maintain warm friendships with an Administration that has done much good for Israel but is getting it fundamentally wrong on Iran.
It’s a tough job. But someone’s got to do it. And there is no one better than Israel’s charismatic Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer.
Yes, in every generation they stand up to vanquish us. But in some generations we are fortunate to have courageous individuals who stand up to defend us.
Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 30 books, including The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering.
Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley. ]]>