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January 12, 2014 3:35 pm

American Jewish Leaders Mourn Ariel Sharon; Praise Political Pragmatism and Military Prowess

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Ariel Sharon with Jewish leaders Malcolm Hoenlein (right) and James Tisch (left). Photo: COP.

American Jewish organizations and their leaders expressed condolences to the family of recently deceased Israeli premier Ariel Sharon, in statements issued Saturday and Sunday.

The groups recounted their experiences working with Sharon who died on Saturday aged 85, and remembered him as a bold and courageous leader.

Robert G. Sugarman, Chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said, “There were few in Israel’s history who contributed so much to the State, who demonstrated courage and bravery as well as keen insight and incisive thinking.”

“Prime Minister Sharon always went out of his way to discuss and take into consideration the views of the diaspora community and valued his role not only as Prime Minister of Israel but also as a leader of the Jewish people,” Hoenlein and Sugarman said.

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Leaders of the Anti-Defamation League, Barry Curtiss-Lusher and Abraham H. Foxman remembered Sharon as, “A great military leader who fought in Israel’s five wars,” and who “capped his career by becoming a true statesman and a prime minister who earned the support of a wide swath of the Israeli public and the international community.”

“Through his steadfast leadership, and his courageous advocacy of positions and policies that were often controversial yet always with Israel’s best interests at heart, Prime Minister Sharon helped his people emerge” from the second Intifada, they said. “His legacy is a more secure State of Israel, safe on its borders and resolved to put an end to the campaign of Palestinian terrorism once and for all.”

B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said that, “Israel lost a unique and unusual leader who demonstrated the ability to change his way of thinking and seeking out new paths.”

“He was a brave and fearless soldier, a wise and brilliant leader, who left a lasting impact on Israel,” he said. “Each time Israel was threatened with extinction, Ariel Sharon rose to defend her.”

“He lived the Zionist dream as farmer, soldier and statesman, always mindful of the tremendous responsibilities cast his way on the battlefield or at the diplomatic table,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin added.

“With the passing of Ariel Sharon, a defining chapter in Israel’s history goes with him,” said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee. “He was a man of towering strength, uncompromising commitment, steely determination, and creative vision.”

“He was among the giants of Israel’s founding generation. Against all the odds, they established the democratic state, defended it against those who sought its destruction, and participated in its remarkable growth and development over the last nearly six decades,” the AJC said. “While he fully understood the importance of military strength and strategic acumen to ensure Israel’s security in a turbulent region, he also displayed a political pragmatism that surprised his external and domestic critics.”

The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces highlighted Sharon’s military career. “He fought and won many battles,” the group said. “We appreciate his contribution to the defense of Israel and will remember him as one of the most well respected commanders of all time.”

Rabbi Leonard Matanky, president of the Rabbinical Council of America, said, “We are grateful for the many positive contributions he made to the State of Israel.”

The National Jewish Democratic Council called Sharon “a true defender of Israel,” while the Republican Jewish Coalition said, “He was a great warrior who fought wholeheartedly for Israel’s existence, security, and well-being.”

Sharon will be buried in a military ceremony on Monday at his ranch in Israel’s Negev. World leaders, including U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, are expected to be in attendance.

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