At AIPAC, UH rabbi remembered for friendship with Truman; WashU group honored

Executive board members of Washington University Israel Public Affairs Committee (WIPAC) pose with their awards after their chapter received the AIPAC 2018 “Campus Activist of the Year” Award. From left are WashU Hillel Assistant Director and WIPAC Advisor Miriam Ross-Hirsch, Geordan Neinstein, Micah Goldson, President Nate Turk, Jacob Scheinman, Kayla Steinberg, Immediate Past President Hannah Sinrich, former President and current AIPAC staffer Daniel Grey and WashU Hillel CEO, Jackie Levey.

By Eric Berger, Staff Writer

Rabbi Brigitte Rosenberg sat on a bus in Israel during a July trip sponsored by an Israel advocacy organization when someone started discussing former President Harry Truman’s friendship with Eddie Jacobson, a Jewish businessman from Kansas City. 

Rosenberg, of United Hebrew Congregation, pointed out that the synagogue’s late Rabbi Samuel Thurman was good friends with the first U.S. president to recognize the State of Israel. She also noted that the congregation has letters between the two leaders in its archives.

That conversation led Rosenberg to give a presentation about the relationship between Thurman and Truman at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual policy conference, which took place earlier this week in Washington. The presentation included a recitation of the letters, such as one where Thurman thanks Truman, a Missourian, for his “courageous and noble action” of recognizing Israel.

On making the presentation, Rosenberg said, “There were 18,000 people in the room so it was a little crazy, but it was wonderful and people were really touched by the story.”

That presentation was just one example of the ways in which more than 60 Jews from the St. Louis area took part in the conference, which featured speeches from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Vice President Mike Pence and Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

The organization also honored the Washington University Israel Public Affairs Committee, an AIPAC-trained chapter, with its Campus Activist of the Year Award. The school sent 30 students to the conference.

“We are so proud to work with these phenomenal student leaders,” the Hillel at Washington University stated on its Facebook page. “Kol HaKavod (well-done) on their many achievements!”

Jeremy Schuver, a 20-year-old student at St. Louis Community College-Meramec, attended for the first time and said that “after seeing so much anti-Israel discrimination in the news and the U.N., it’s so reassuring to be around so many people that have such a love for Israel.”

Rabbi Mike Rovinsky, director of the local Jewish Student Union, attended for the fifth time. He said the gathering this year had a “much more progressive bent to it… and I think that had a lot to do with AIPAC demonstrating the bipartisanship of their mission and how a strong U.S.-Israel relationship is beneficial to all parties involved.”

Analysts stated that progressive outreach (see related story on opposite page) was likely in response to the fact that many in the Jewish community strongly oppose President Donald Trump, despite his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. AIPAC President Mort Fridman said at the start of the convention, “To my friends in the progressive community, I want you to know we are partners in this project.”

The St. Louis delegates also met with U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill of Missouri and U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner of St. Louis, among other lawmakers, Rosenberg said.

The rabbi said there had been “lots of discussion” at the conference “about what it means to be pro-Israel and what it doesn’t mean.”

She said she particularly enjoyed U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman’s talk. He told attendees that, “Pro-Israel and pro-peace sounds like a completely reasonable position. My friends it is not. Using that phrase plainly implies that there are people who are pro-Israel and anti-peace.”

Information from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency was used in this report.