April 10, 2024
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Congressional Gold Medal for Peres

Washington, DC—With his acceptance of the Congressional Gold Medal in the Capitol rotunda, outgoing Israeli President Shimon Pe­res joins Winston Churchill and Nelson Mande­la as one of only three foreign heads of state to receive the highest civilian award in the United States and becomes the first sitting Israeli pres­ident to receive the Congressional Gold Medal.

Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Democratic Senator Michael Bennett of Colorado introduced legislation to honor Peres with the medal for his decades long role in cementing the exceptionally close alliance between the United States and Israel in August 2013, with similar legislation brought in the House of Representatives by Republi­can Congressman Trent Franks and Democrat­ic Congressman Joseph Kennedy of Massa­chusetts. The legislation passed the House in March, was unanimously approved by the Sen­ate in May and was signed by President Oba­ma on June 9th.

The effort to recognize Peres for his service and to publicly affirm the close relationship be­tween the United States and Israel began two years ago and was initiated by Ezra Friedlander, CEO of The Friedlander Group, and spearhead­ed by Robert Rechnitz, founder and chairman of The Jerusalem Conference and Iron Dome Trib­ute, and Lee Samson of the international board of trustees of Jerusalem’s Museum of Tolerance and founder and chairman of the Kiryat Shemo­na Foundation. Also involved were Simon Falic of Miami Beach; Ron Plotnik, a major support­er of the Republican Jewish Coalition; Stanley Treitel; Rabbi David Baron of Temple of the Arts of Beverly Hills, who served as Chair of the Cler­gy Cabinet, and Hassan Ali Bin Al, Internation­al Chairman of the Shimon Peres Congression­al Gold Medal Commemoration Committee. The introduction of the legislation in Congress was timed to coincide with the Israeli president’s 90th birthday, casting the spotlight on Peres, a close disciple of David Ben-Gurion, and the only living member of Israel’s founding generation of political figures.

Rechnitz described Peres as a highly re­garded statesman with a reputation as a man of peace.

The opportunity to take part in a con­gressional ceremony honoring the pres­ident of Israel was an emotional one for Rechnitz, the son of Holocaust survivors.

“To be standing in the Capitol rotunda while the Marine choir is singing “Hatikva” and playing Jewish music was very moving. There were moments when there were very few dry eyes in the room,” said Rechnitz. “It was an in­credible opportunity to witness firsthand the respect and support that Congress has for Is­rael.”

In his remarks prior to the presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal, Rechnitz described the day as both historic and sig­nificant.

“Today is a proud day—a triumph for us all—because today is a public affirmation of the unbreakable bond which not only exists, but indeed flourishes between the United States and Israel,” said Rechnitz. “It is a relationship which is being constantly scrutinized. But today, we are able to show to the world that the ties between our two countries can never be weakened.”

Israel by presenting him with the Con­gressional Gold Medal, Peres honored Sam­son and Rechnitz with the US-Israel Ad­vocacy Leadership Award, presented at a Washington ceremony one day before re­ceiving his own award with an inscription:

“In recognition of their pivotal role of stewardship and sustaining the bilateral relationship between the United States of America & State of Israel and forging the un­breakable bond between the people of the United States and Israel.”

By Nora Gutekanst

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