Tuesday, June 04, 2013

John Kerry and His Jewish Connections

As many of you might know – if you don’t I tell you now – my brother Cam is a proud member of the community. He converted to Judaism 30 years ago before marrying his wife, Kathy. And this morning I’m proud to say he started as Acting Secretary of Commerce – the Commerce Department – and I’m told that today we become the first ever two brothers to lead Cabinet-level agencies at the same time. (Applause.)  When the Psalmist wrote the hymn, [in Hebrew] – (laughter) – “How good and pleasing it is for brothers to sit together in unity” – (laughter) – I’m pretty sure he wasn’t picturing us sitting together in the Cabinet Room of the White House – (laughter) – though our mother may well have. (Laughter.) Either way, I can tell you that it will be an honor to serve alongside my brother Cam, even if it’s just for a short while.

...I had the great honor of becoming Secretary of State in February. I visited Israel in March, April, and May, and I will be back soon. (Applause.) And each time that I go, the deep personal connection that I feel with the state and the people of Israel is only strengthened. These are actually bonds that reach back into my own family tree, including relatives I never met and never knew about until the last decade, relatives who perished in the Holocaust, relatives I thought about in new and personal ways on Yom HaShoah when I laid a wreath on behalf of the United States at Yad Vashem.

And on how narrow Israel is:

Once, I got to see the State from the air, when someone actually let me fly an Israeli Air Force jet across the Negev. (Laughter.) It was on that unforgettable flight from the Ovda Air Base, from the luncheon we were having, when the colonel came back an ace from the war in ’67. He said, “Senator, I hope you haven’t eat too much. We go flying.” (Laughter.) So I said, “Sounds good to me,” and we left everybody, we jumped in the jet, and he said, “The minute we’re off the airport, the jet’s yours; you take it wherever you want.” (Laughter.) So we took out of the airbase just north of Eilat and I got to see with my own eyes how narrow the borders of Israel are, and just how vulnerable Israel’s security is. There’s simply no margin for error, and I understood that. And in a matter of minutes, as I flew that jet, at one point my pilot in the back seat turned – he radioed to me and he says, “Senator, you are about to go over Egypt. Turn.” (Laughter.) So I fly over very quickly. I came close that day to violating the airspaces of both Egypt and Jordan. (Laughter.)



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