The Israeli Consulate General in Philadelphia will remain open.
The Jerusalem Post, reported Oct. 11 that Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin said the Philadelphia consulate could be closed to make way for a new diplomatic mission in China. The report touched off flurry of activity among Federations and Jewish and Israeli interest groups, not to mention Gov. Tom Corbett, Sens. Robert P. Casey Jr., Pat Toomey and other members of Congress, to lobby the Israeli government to keep the consulate open.
That activity has apparently paid off. Richard A. Bendit, president of the Philadelphia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, distributed an email Thursday, Dec. 12, stating that the Israeli Foreign Ministry has decided to keep the mission open.
CBSPhilly reported Thursday that Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman broke the news by writing to Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who recently led a delegation of business and academic leaders to Israel on a 10-day trade mission.
The Philadelphia consulate covers the Mid-Atlantic Region, which includes Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition, the lobbying arm of the state’s Jewish federations, also confirmed the report.
“This is fantastic news for both Israel and the communities served by the Consulate,” Bendit wrote. “Preserving an official Israeli presence in our region will help the Greater Philadelphia area maintain its leadership role in accelerating U.S.-Israeli business development, advocating pro-Israeli causes, and strengthening cultural, political and philanthropic ties between our two countries.
In his letter, Bendit thanked numerous individuals and organizations — from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware — for their support of the campaign to keep the consulate open. That long list included Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
During the campaign, Gregg Roman, director of the Community Relations Council for the Federation in Pittsburgh, said the consulate was “a resource and a partner” in Federation’s own mission to promote the State of Israel.
He noted that the current consul general and his deputy had held more than 30 meetings in the area, addressing thousands of people, during their four trips to southwestern Pennsylvania since taking office last year.
“The consulate’s closure, if it happened, would be to the detriment of our mission,” Roman said.
The Jerusalem Post story said Philadelphia was one several consulates and embassies around the world that could be closed in favor of a new China mission. It wasn’t immediately clear if one of those offices may still be shuttered.
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)