Israel Bonds event endures as ‘Traditional’ point of pride

Light Editor-in-Chief Emeritus Robert A. Cohn. 

By David Baugher, Special to the Jewish Light

Traditional Congregation will once again sponsor its annual Israel Bonds event to assist an organization that has long supported investment in the Jewish State. Traditional is also the only congregation in the state to do an annual event for the group.

This year’s fundraiser will be the 43rd iteration of the event and will take the form of a midday kosher brunch instead of the dinners from previous years. 

“I am told by Israel Bonds that it is the second longest continuous running Bond event in the Midwest,” said Stan Greenberg who is co-chairing next month’s gathering with wife Erika.

Edward A. Turzanski will deliver remarks to the assembled guests. Turzanski is the John Templeton Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and co-chair of the Center for the Study of Terrorism. A veteran of two presidential administrations, he has served in both intelligence and anti-terrorism roles and is a regular commentator on national security issues for numerous media outlets.

Greenberg said the event has a long tradition of notable names at the dais. Recent speakers included Izzy Ezagui, a soldier who returned to duty in the IDF after losing an arm and Gil Tamary, Washington Bureau chief for Israel’s Channel 10 News.

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It is all part of a long tradition for the Israel Bonds gathering.

“It started off in someone’s downstairs 42 years ago and it has blossomed into an annual event that Traditional Congregation is extremely proud of,” he said. “We’ve raised a whole lot of money for Israel over the years.”

The brunch will also honor Robert A. Cohn, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of the Jewish Light.

Cohn, who edited the Light beginning in 1969, said he was thrilled to be the honoree at an Israel Bonds event noting that such gatherings were once more commonplace than they are today.

“It used to be that every synagogue and every temple practically would have their own Israel Bonds dinner,” he recalled. “In a way, in terms of support for Israel, the Israel Bonds organization was sort of co-equal with the Jewish Federation.”

A regular traveler to Israel, Cohn first visited just after taking over the Light and found the experience profoundly moving for both himself and his wife as they toured the small nation.

“We got to see Golda Meir in her office,” he said. “We went up on Masada where the Jews held off a Roman legion before they committed mass suicide.”

He remembered being there just after the Gulf War when tourism hit a low ebb. 

“The place was completely deserted. It was like a ghost town,” he said of visiting one shopkeeper in a small town. “She was so grateful to see American Jews going to Israel despite everyone else being afraid to go there.”

Cohn, 77, still remembers hearing about the creation of the State of Israel while in grade school. 

Later, he’d feel stirrings of connection to the Mideast from cinematic portrayals of Jews in the movie “Exodus.” By 1967, the Six Day War reaffirmed his feelings after Israel, which had been expected to lose the conflict, actually expanded its territory.

“They had that photograph of the young Israeli soldiers looking at the Western Wall,” he said. “We all were just bursting with pride because all the advance reports had said that Israel was going to be wiped out in a matter of hours.”

But he worries that not everyone today has the same fondness for Israel that he discovered.

“It has been documented that the American Jewish community, especially among younger people is much less enamored of Israel,” said the Clayton resident noting that personal relationships help solidify the bond for many. “You know people who are there and you care about them more than just an abstract concept of a nation-state.”

The past president of Shaare Emeth, Cohn said that it remains important for Jews to back Israel.

 “We were the generation blessed with a rebirth of a sovereign Jewish nation for the first time in 2,000 years and it is very important — not that we are unqualified or uncritical in our support — but that we remain supportive of Israel,” he said.`