The Hillary I know
Last month, I read an opinion piece in a Jewish publication wrongfully accusing Hillary Clinton of being anti-Israel and not fighting for the issues that matter most to Jewish Americans. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Throughout her career, Hillary Clinton has fought for and been a strong ally and representative of the Jewish community. To suggest otherwise is just absurd.
I have been lucky enough to know Hillary Clinton for more than 35 years, ever since I was a teenager in Arkansas in the 1970s. I don’t know anyone who is more able and ready to work on the issues that matter and to make sure that the ideas and concerns of the Jewish people are addressed.
I first met Hillary when my father, who was a rabbi in Little Rock, went to Fayetteville to perform the town’s first-ever bar mitzvah. At the reception, we met a nice young couple, Bill and Hillary Clinton. My parents and the Clintons became friends and thus began a long history working together in public service.
The author of the piece I read cites obscure references to Hillary Clinton’s life and work back in Arkansas. Having witnessed that time in her life, I can say how misleading and unrepresentative these are to her history fighting for and understanding important issues to the Jewish community.
Hillary was always close to the Jewish community, and she and I worked together on many projects. Behind the scenes, Hillary became one of the leaders of a group of civic-minded professionals who worked together to help people of all faiths strive for communication and cooperation. While Hillary was a Methodist and Bill a Baptist, they always supported interfaith activities.
Hillary was always good at thinking outside the box and finding unique solutions to problems. While traveling, she discovered an Israeli educational program that was designed to help immigrants and their children adjust to life in new countries. She studied the groundbreaking program and figured out that it could be adapted to help economically disadvantaged families in Arkansas. Hillary brought the HIPPY program to Arkansas, where it was soon offered statewide and now operates in 21 states, serving 15,000 families.
I also noticed that the author conveniently chose to exempt from his argument Hillary Clinton’s eight years in the Senate, where, as a senator from New York, she came to know the largest Jewish constituency outside of Israel and was an outspoken defender of Israel. Hillary Clinton’s support within the Jewish communities of both New York and Arkansas is a testament to her friendships and relationships that have been developed over a lifetime.
Conflicts in Israel and the Middle East weigh heavy in the hearts and minds of the Jewish community. Strong leadership from leaders who understand our history and share the interests of the Jewish people is needed to bring about peaceful resolutions. The article chooses to neglect this in passing judgment on Hillary Clinton’s record as secretary of state.
As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton continued her strong support for Israel. One of her greatest achievements was negotiating a cease-fire to avert an all-out war in Gaza. She also helped lead efforts to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. On the U.S’s relationship with Israel, Hillary said, “Israel and the United States are united by a deep and unbreakable bond based on mutual interests and respect.”
The domestic issues that the Jewish community cares about — freedom of religion and separation of church and state, personal freedoms and rights, education and health care — are issues Hillary Clinton has worked on her entire life. Her passionate support of the Jewish community culminated with her being awarded a lifetime achievement award from the American Jewish Congress.
From her foreign policy abroad to her work back home, Hillary Clinton has consistently shown her support and dedication to the issues that matter most to Jewish Americans.
I share in the thoughts of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in saying to Hillary Clinton: “You are a great friend and a great champion of peace.” I hope the rest of the Jewish community can share in this long-lasting bond with Hillary Clinton.
Lazar Palnick is an attorney in Pittsburgh, who grew up in Little Rock, Ark.