Israel’s Social Affairs Minister speaks at JFED Annual Campaign kickoff


The Jewish Federation kicked off its 2008 Annual Campaign with an appearance by Yitzhak Herzog, Israel’s Social Affairs Minister, who spoke about the challenges Israel faces at home and abroad.

Herzog spoke to the crowd of 130 people at the Federation’s Major Gifts Event, which honored benefactors who donated a minimum of $10,000 to the Federation. The event was chaired by the family of Merwyn and Barbara Sher and their children, Howard, Karen and Dorie.

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Jay Sarver, past president of the Jewish Federation and past chair of the JFED annual campaign, introduced Herzog as “a good friend and a tireless worker on behalf of the Jewish people.”

Sarver said Herzog “is really in the family business, and that is the building of the State of Israel. His grandfather (Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog) was the chief rabbi. His father (Chaim Herzog) was the president, and his uncle, Abba Eban, we all know.”

Herzog said that while Israel has the strongest military and economy in its region, the country faces a number of challenges, particularly with Iran.

“We are faced with the international challenge of Iran. This is not only an Israeli challenge, but we are perhaps at the forefront of it. But it’s a challenge for modern, liberal Western society as we know it versus a philosophy and ideology of non-acceptance of other religions, of extreme fundamentalist Islam,” Herzog said. “It is a major problem for Western society today.”

Herzog said that he is glad that world leaders are “finally coming to understand the risks and dangers involved,” with Iran.

“It’s a race against time and a race against the most horrendous program of nuclear proliferation in the modern age,” Herzog said. “It is a program that not only endangers Israel, but all of the free world and we should treat it as such,” he said.

Herzog said that within the Middle East and the surrounding regions, there are two coalitions, one moderate, and one extreme.

“We have a moderate coalition, which believes in a two- state solution, namely Israel and Palestine living side by side with each other. And this coalition is confronted by a very extreme coalition, spreading hatred, emanating from Tehran to Damascus, with Hezbollah and Hamas, and that coalition calls for radicalization of the situation, of undermining Israel’s existence and of spreading terror,” Herzog said.

“Our policy and philosophy and the United States’ philosophy should be such to support the moderate coalition,” he said. “That is why we absolutely concur and support the vision of the Annapolis summit. Not because necessarily we will come out with a peace agreement at Annapolis, but it gives a greater ray of hope, a benchmark for a process, and a recognition of a process which will accommodate the moderate coalition in the region.”

“Moreover, it will paint for us a vision of peace in the region and direct or build guidelines for how to move on with the process and how to deal with the most difficult and painful core issues of the conflict between us and the Palestinians,” Herzog said.

Working with the Palestinians will help give legitimacy and political backing to the more moderate regime of President Mahmoud Abbas, Herzog said.

Herzog said that as Minister of Social Affairs, he also sees the full range of domestic challenges facing Israel.

“We are a modern society, encompassing all of the problems of a modern society, whether it be drug abuse, alcoholism, sexual abuse and all other problems,” he said.

And as the Jewish State, Israel also faces unique challenges to absorb new immigrants, he noted.

Herzog said that support from Jews across the world is critical in helping to meet those challenges.

“You have no idea how important your contribution is, it has helped us tremendously, and it helps us day in and day out and how it helps strengthen and foster the inner fabric of the great society which seeks to meet so many great challenges on a daily basis,” Herzog said.

“I believe that the success story of the State of Israel, despite all of the risks, is quite incredible: an open, vibrant, democratic society despite that it is a society under terror,” he said. “That only happened because of Jewish unity.”

In opening remarks, Steven Fradkin, Chief Financial Officer of Northern Trust Bank, praised the Federation and its benefactors.

“The work of the Federation and the State of Israel are issues important to me,” he said. “This is a group that has acted, not just stated. The Jewish Federation of St. Louis that I see today is a marvelous institution.”

“We don’t really give to the Federation. We give through the Federation,” Fradkin said, referring to the variety of constituent agencies and funds supported by the Jewish Federation.

“Every supporter matters, and every dollar counts,” he said.