Menendez calls U.S.-Israel relationship ‘sacrosanct’ at Middle East Institute
Senator Robert Menendez gave enthusiastic, full-throated support for Israel and steadfast commitment to the security of the Jewish community in his keynote talk at the 48th Annual Middle East Institute. The Jewish Community Relations Council event held at Temple Beth Sholom in Cherry Hill on Mar. 5 also saw the presentation of the Israel Advocacy Award to Emily & Milt Gottschalk.
Calling the U.S.-Israel relationship “inviolable and sacrosanct,” Menendez, a previous Israel Advocacy Award winner, said that he “fundamentally believes in the right of Israelis to live in their land and to defend themselves.” He noted that he was one of the co-authors of the recent congressional resolution disapproving of the Obama administration’s abstention on the UN resolution criticizing Israel. “It was wrong to betray our commitment to Israel, our most steadfast ally in the Middle East.”
Menendez, who was introduced by Karin Elkis as a man of courage, integrity and a staunch supporter of Israel, said that support for Israel is in both America’s national interest and national security interest. “Tonight, standing up for Israel is perhaps more important than at any other time.”
Receiving enthusiastic applause throughout his talk, Menendez also spoke about the threat to Israel and the U.S. posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. He said that Iran must be held accountable both for violations of the nuclear accord, which he voted against, and its sponsorship of terrorism. Menendez also voiced his rejection of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement both abroad and here at home, including on college campuses. He noted that Rutgers, which has seen BDS activity, has the largest Jewish student population at any U.S. college. He said the BDS movement is a material threat to Israel and is stained with anti-Semitism.
In addition to discussing the Middle East and U.S. support for Israel, Menendez spoke about the recent bomb threats to JCCs and the vandalism at Jewish cemeteries. The son of political refugees from Cuba, he spoke forcefully against bias and hatred.
“JCCs are a place of learning, recreation, and conversation, not places for fear,” said Menendez. He said it is up to everyone to speak out against anti-Semitism, with elected officials having a special obligation to speak out. “We are all in this together,” he said.
Menendez closed his talk by telling of an American sergeant in a POW camp in Germany who was asked to tell the Nazis who among the prisoners of war was Jewish. He refused, instead saying that they were all Jews there. He saved the lives of 200 Jews.
“I too say, ‘We are all Jews,’” said Menendez.
The Middle East Institute also featured the presentation of the JCRC Israel Advocacy Award to Emily & Milt Gottschalk. In presenting the award to the Gottschalks, Vicki Zell, a past Federation president, JCRC president, and Israel Advocacy Award winner, said that the Gottschalks are lead funders for teen Israel advocacy training. “Milt and Emily are changing the world one person at a time and leading by example” at the JCRC, Federation, and Temple Beth Sholom.
In accepting the award, Emily Gottschalk spoke about the couple’s passion for teen advocacy and speaking out for Israel. She said that the act of giving is 10-fold that of receiving. It was also announced that night that the Gottschalks, through their Mildred M. Sofer Family Foundation, would match contributions made that night in support of teen Israel advocacy up to $5,000.