Jack Kemp

Many of us realized that the passing of Jack Kemp was cause for sadness. We did not necessarily know about the degree of his friendship with the Jewish community. Much will likely surface in the next days in conventional and alternative media. His passing, however, deserves some quicker tribute, so I offer below one perspective on a man who endeared himself to many of us. It is an excerpt from a larger article.

[Thanks to Brad Wixen, Los Angeles, for finding the article]

I saw Jack Kemp in person a number of times down through the years. My most memorable encounter, however, was when I stood with 250,000 other Americans on the National Mall in Washington on Sunday, December 6, 1987 as a participant in the March on Washington for Soviet Jewry and listened to Jack Kemp advocating our cause. No other member of the House of Representatives more effectively and ardently championed the cause of Soviet Jewry than Jack Kemp. In fact, the issue of Soviet Jewry was a cause not only of Jack Kemp but of his family as well – his wife, Joanne, for years served as a Co-Chair of Congressional Wives for Soviet Jewry.
Indeed, it was as an American Jew that I felt most deeply the greatness of Jack Kemp. He grew up in the Wilshire area of Los Angeles, then a predominantly Jewish area of the city and felt a deep personal kinship with the American Jewish community. He was not only a friend to the Jewish community – he was a true brother for us. Many politicians, both Democrat and Republican, give lip service in support of Israel in order to attract Jewish voters. Jack Kemp, however, was totally committed to Israel and Zionism, and the State of Israel never had a better friend in Congress than Jack Kemp.

In fact, Jack had such an extensive knowledge of Judaism and Jewish history that he often quoted Rabbi Moses Maimonides in his speeches. Rabbi Maimonides was also known as the Rambam, an acronym of his Hebrew name, Rabbi Moshe ben (son of) Maimon. The Rambam, who lived in 12th century Spain, Morocco, and Egypt, was one of the truly outstanding personages of Jewish history – he was perhaps the most outstanding rabbi in history, as well as being the greatest physician in the world in his time, and a world renowned philosopher as well. His book, the Guide for the Perplexed is one of the most influential and widely read books in the history of philosophy. In fact, there is a famous Jewish saying that “from Moses (in the Bible) to Moses (Maimonides), there was none greater.”

The following quote from the Rambam is a remarkable summary of the life philosophy of Jack Kemp, a man who lived eight centuries after the Rambam:
“Anticipate charity by preventing poverty; assist the reduced fellow man, either by a considerable gift or a sum of money or by teaching him a trade or by putting him in the way of business so that he may earn an honest livelihood and not be forced to the dreadful alternative of holding out his hand for charity. This is the highest step and summit of charity’s golden ladder.”

Jack often stated that he would tell his children every day, “Be a leader.” He was a leader who led by asserting the power of ideas. He was one of those rare individuals of both goodness and greatness. Rest in peace, Jack Kemp – you truly helped make the world a better place and have earned your place in Heaven.

Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush. Region 2 EPA consists of the states of New York and New Jersey, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and seven federally recognized Indian nations.

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5 Responses

  1. Raymond says:

    I had no idea that Jack Kemp had been so seriously ill, and so I was shocked when I heard the news last night about his relatively early death.

    It has long been a mystery to me, why Jack Kemp never became President. Back in 1996 when he was Bob Dole’s running mate, I remember thinking that it should have been a Kemp-Dole ticket rather than the other way around. At least in my perception, the only person more like Ronald Reagen than Jack Kemp, was Ronald Reagen himself. That, to me, is about the biggest compliment that anybody can pay to an American politician.

    I know that Jack Kemp was a strong supporter of the Jewish State of Israel, which leads me to try to make a point here. Perhaps I take my relatively strong Jewish upbringing too much for granted, but for the life of me, I do not understand how any American Jew of voting age could possibly not vote for the more pro-Israel candidate in any given election. And yet, that is not only the case, but approximately 75% of American Jews consistently vote for the candidate who is worse for Israel.

    At least until the last year or so that he was in office, President Bush was our strongest friend since the late great President Reagen. Yet that magic percentage of 75 (of Jews) voted for his opponents. What is even more maddening to me, is how any Jew at all could have voted for such a blatantly anti-Israel candidate like Obama, and yet once again, about that same percentage voted for him. And how many Jews supported Rudy Giuliani, before his campaign crumbled? Rudy is so pro-Israel, that I have heard it suggested that he would be a better Prime Minister of Israel than any of the Israeli Prime Ministers have been!

    The point is, with virtually the entire world wanting us Jews dead, with us Jews so few in numbers, and our tiny Jewish country surrounded by the most hostile, murderously barbaric people in the world, let us put aside our differences long enough to at least vote for leaders who want us to be alive and thrive.

  2. Bob Miller says:

    When we lived in Metro Detroit, Jack Kemp was once the featured speaker at the big annual Yeshiva Beth Yehudah Dinner downtown.

  3. Baruch says:

    He was a good man and Rav Ahron Soloveichik would qoute him We need Peace for Peace and not land for Peace.

    Kol tuv,


  4. MYCROFT says:

    “At least until the last year or so that he was in office, President Bush was our strongest friend since the late great President Reagen”

    Certainly there is much that is troubling about at least the potential of what the Obama administration is hinting about Israel-but don’t romanticiaxe the past. GWB made very anti-Israel hints in 2001-can one forget Sharon’s remarks after 9/11 with the attempt of GWB to sort of explain it and say that US must be more even handed. Sharons remarks that we won’t become another Czechoslovakia. GWB was the first president to make explicit US policy to have a Palestinian state-of course wonderful irony Reagan was the first president to to recognize the PLO-can one forget Reagan and the fights that the Israeli lobbi had with him regarding places to Saudi Arabia.
    Jack Kemp can be remebered as at least avery decent man in his heart-his leading boycottof potential AFL All Star Game in New Orleans because of discrimination against blacks shows where his heart was. Of course, one can seriously argue that his supply side economics-with the resultant deficits has been the case of much harm to the US.
    A historical oddity Jack Kemp and OJ Simpson were in the same backfield of the Buffalo Bills for a year-1st and last years of their football careers. In terms of menchkite one can’tthink of 2 more different people.

  5. Raymond says:

    It is true that Condalisa Rice kept calling for a Palestinian State. However, it was all for show, not taken seriously by the White House. President Bush made the ceasing of murdering Jews as a pre-condition to such a state, because he knew full well that the islamofascists would never agree to such self-restraint.

    Contrast this with obama, who insists on a Palestinian State, as a precursor to Israel even considering destroying Iran’s nuclear capabilities. In other words, Obama is forcing Israel to accept either the islmafascists from Gaza murdering Jews, or islamofascists from Iran murdering Jews.

    And then think about history. Who were the ones who actively forced Israel to make huge concessions in exchange for nothing? It was Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and now Barack Obama, all Democrats. Republican Presidents tend to leave Israel alone. Remember, Israel is its own county, not meant to be a mere puppet of the United States.

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