Former US Secretary of State George Shultz Fondly Remembered for Pivotal Role in Securing Freedom for Soviet Jews
The pivotal role of former US Secretary of State George Shultz in securing the freedom of persecuted Jewish communities in the Soviet Union was warmly recalled on Monday, one day after he passed away at the age of 100.
In a 2017 speech, Shultz was identified by Natan Sharansky — one of the leading “refuseniks” of the Soviet era who went on to become head of the Jewish Agency — as “a liberator” of Russia’s Jews.
“You played a crucial role in bringing down the Iron Curtain and giving freedom to the people. I can assure you that your name will remain with us forever as a liberator of millions of Soviet Jews,” Sharansky told Shultz at a ceremony presenting a lifetime achievement award to the legendary diplomat, who during his career served three different US presidents in four Cabinet-level offices.
“I have a great sense of gratitude to the Soviet Jews because they showed us what courage is all about,” said Shultz in his acceptance speech. “They showed us how important it is to stand up for what you believe in and to never give up.”
US Jewish leaders expressed sorrow at Shultz’s passing and paid tribute to his advocacy for Soviet Jews and his ironclad commitment to Israel’s security.
“As Secretary of State, George Shultz not only guided the free world through the end of the Cold War, along with President Ronald Reagan, but he was also a loyal friend of the Jewish people and the State of Israel,” Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), said on Monday. “His advocacy on behalf of Soviet Jewry and his principled stance in ensuring Israel’s security as a US foreign policy priority, stand as a hallmark to his commitment to freedom.”
In a separate statement, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) remarked: “No words are sufficient to describe the central role [Shultz] played, or the message he sent, when, as secretary of state, he hosted a Passover Seder for Soviet Jewish activists at the American Embassy in Moscow in 1987.”
“As America’s top diplomat, [Shultz] was a staunch supporter of the Jewish State and a key ally of the Soviet Jewry movement whose efforts greatly deepened the US-Israel relationship,” said Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Chairman Arthur Stark, CEO William Daroff and Vice Chair Malcolm Hoenlein in a statement. “The Conference and the Jewish community owe him a debt of gratitude.”
In more recent years, Shultz occasionally spoke out on matters of foreign policy concern.
In 2015, as the US Administration was negotiating a nuclear deal with the Iranian regime, Shultz warned that the Islamic Republic’s goal of eliminating Israel could not be avoided.
“Every other day they say they want to destroy Israel,” Shultz said at the time. “I think we should take them at their word; that’s what they want to do.”