WASHINGTON- As the US mourns Senator Edward Kennedy, the Jewish community and friends of Israel expressed their deep sorrow at the passing of the veteran legislator, who had advocated for Israel throughout his 47 years in the Senate.
AIPAC published an announcement of the senator's death Wednesday in which it described him as "a staunch supporter of the US-Israel relationship and a true and longstanding friend of America's pro-Israel community."
"During his more than four decades in the US Senate, Sen. Kennedy consistently supported American assistance to Israel, particularly during the Jewish state's most trying times, in the wake of the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War," wrote AIPAC.
Kennedy spearheaded the struggle in Washington against weapons sales to Israel's enemies. He also vocally condemned the Arab League boycott against Israel, and sharply criticized the UN for isolating Israel. During his service as in the Senate, he pushed his colleagues to recognize Jerusalem as the unified capital of Israel, and cautioned against the threat of global terrorism.
The veteran statesman was one of the leaders of the struggle against Jewish persecution in the Soviet Union, a subject particularly close to his heart, even raising the issue personally in meetings with Soviet leaders during which he often requested that exit permits be granted Jews seeking to immigrate. He also demanded that the US provide Israel with loan guarantees to absorb the Jewish refugees.
ADL National Chair Abe Foxman also issued a statement of mourning that praised Kennedy for his "leadership on issues of voting reform, religious freedom, civil rights, hate crime protections and immigration reform."
"He fought against anti-Semitism, racism, prejudice and bigotry of all kinds. He was a staunch supporter of Israel and an outspoken advocate for Soviet Jews," wrote Foxman on behalf of the ADL.
American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris commented that the late senator was a true friend of the Jewish people who could always be relied upon. “His support for the well-being of the State of Israel was always firm, as was his solidarity with vulnerable Jewish communities, particularly those persecuted in the former Soviet Union,” said Harris.
Andrea Weinstein and Rabbi Steve Gutow, respectively chair and president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs said of the senator, "Within the Jewish community, Senator Kennedy will always be remembered as a friend of Israel and a supporter of Middle East peace. As an advocate for keeping our nation's borders open and fighting injustices around the world, he was a leading voice of support for Soviet Jewry. We join Senator Kennedy's family and a grateful nation in celebrating his life and mourning the loss of one of our greatest leaders."