Thursday, August 27, 2009

Senator Ted Kennedy, z'l

Accolades are pouring in for Ted Kennedy, and deservedly so. He was a great friend of the Jewish community and Israel. On a personal note, Kennedy was always responsive to the needs of the weakest in society and, because of his sister's condition, he was a greater supporter of those with developmental and intellectual disabilities. At one time, my father was chair of the Boston Association for Retarded Children and I can recall just how supportive Sen. Kennedy was to those efforts. He was truly loved by all the "little people." We all felt that we had a voice in Washington through him.

Congregant John Graubard sent this to me, from the "Talking Points Memo" website.

It is a small part of his great legacy but it should not go unmentioned that Ted Kennedy was one of the few senators who rarely, if ever, yielded to the pressure to join the Israel-is-always-right caucus. The mindless jingoism of his colleagues was not his way (nor is it John Kerry's) and when he addressed the Israeli-Palestinian issue, he was compassionate and even-handed. He was not your standard "liberal on everything but Israel" type.

The axe to grind in that first paragraph notwithstanding, the anecdote described below is well worth the read. As for that first line, it represents a totally warped mindset that is all too prevalent. It confuses unconditional, unbreakable love for "mindless jingoism" and assumes that public support isn't often accompanied by privately expressed, supportive advice. Finally, if even-handedness means moral equivalence, no way was he "even handed." Not in the least.

At its best, even-handed means that all peoples of the region deserve, equally, to live in peace and dignity. No innocent civilian should be the target of random attack and no nation should have to stand up to mortal threats. That's even handedness.

Read on.

Professor Leonard Fein from Boston (of Americans for Peace Now) -- who has spent a lifetime struggling for Middle East peace -- offers this beautiful remembrance of Ted Kennedy today. He describes a small incident in Kennedy's long life but one that tells us a lot about the man.

"On the morning of the day before the funeral of Yitzhak Rabin, Senator Ted Kennedy called the White House to inquire if it was appropriate to bring to the burial some earth from Arlington National Cemetery. The answer was essentially a shrug: Who knows? Unadvised, the senator carried a shopping bag onto the plane, filled with earth he had himself dug the afternoon before from the graves of his two murdered brothers. And at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, after waiting for the crowd and the cameras to disperse, he dropped to his hands and knees, and gently placed that earth on the grave of the murdered prime minister.

No spin, no photo op; a man unreasonably familiar with bidding farewell to slain heroes, a man in mourning, quietly making tangible a miserable connection."

Miserable it is. But how much more miserable it would be if we never had these heroes at all?

Here's a collection of tributes from Jewish groups compiled by the JTA

And here's what AIPAC mentioned in its tribute:

Senator Edward Kennedy, A Great Friend of Israel

Sen. Kennedy was a longstanding supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

AIPAC joins all Americans in mourning the loss of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a staunch supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship and a true and longstanding friend of America's pro-Israel community.

During his more than four decades in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Kennedy consistently supported American assistance to Israel, particularly during the Jewish state's most trying times, in the wake of the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War. He led the fight against U.S. arms sales to Israel's enemies, spoke out forcefully against the Arab League boycott of Israel and was a fierce critic of the United Nations' isolation of the Jewish state; he urged his colleagues to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's undivided capital, and warned of the dangers of global terrorism.

Sen. Kennedy became the leading champion for persecuted Soviet Jewry, advocating on behalf of refuseniks and those Jews wishing to leave the Soviet Union, personally raising their issues with Soviet leaders at every possible opportunity, and demanding that the United States provide loan guarantees to Israel to absorb Jewish refugees.

Senator Kennedy's legacy of leadership on these issues and his lifelong support for one of America's closest allies are hallmarks of his historic career devoted to serving the best interests of the American people and our values. He will be sorely missed.

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