June 12, 2024
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Leaders Gather on Capitol Hill to Support Creation of Golda Meir Commemorative Coin

Just days after Israel celebrated its 75th anniversary, members of Congress, Jewish leaders, several foreign dignitaries and others came together on Capitol Hill to express their support for the creation of a Golda Meir commemorative coin.

A resolution introduced by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) is currently making its way through Congress and would authorize the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury to mint these commemorative coins. The goal, said attendees, is to honor Israel and recognize Meir’s trailblazing role as a female prime minister and the unique relationship between the United States and Israel.

The legislation and celebration of Meir’s life is a tribute to a woman who “cemented her place in the heart and soul of America,” said Bobby Reichnitz, a real estate developer and chair of the commemorative coin committee.

Speaking at the April 27 lunch event, Wasserman Schultz said, “Golda’s experience is the Jewish experience.” She explained that like so many other Jews, Meir’s family fled their home in Ukraine and moved to the United States seeking freedom and a better life.

Meir was just 8 at the time her family moved to Milwaukee. She went to school, became a teacher and got married. She forged strong ties with her adopted country, but she dreamed of making aliyah and moving to Israel. She and her husband moved there in 1921 and Meir became enmeshed in the founding of the state, rising up the political ladder until she was elected prime minister in 1969.

Noting that she learned about Meir as a “little Jewish girl on Long Island,” Wasserman Schultz added that the late prime minister proved “that anything was possible for a Jewish girl who wanted to make a difference.”

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa) told the group that growing up as the fourth child in a Catholic family of eight children, there were “not many women role models”; the one exception was Golda Meir.

The speakers, who represented both sides of the aisle and both Jewish and non-Jewish, used the event to talk about the importance of maintaining a strong relationship between Israel and America.

The U.S.-Israel alliance is one of the most enduring alliances, and “I hope we are allies and friends forever,” said Rep. Paul Gossar (R-Ariz.). He went on to say that the United States and Israel have many shared values. Calling Meir “one of the world’s most effective leaders,” Gossar stated that a commemorative coin would be “fitting” and a “long-overdue recognition” to honor her life and legacy.

Several of the newer congressional members also expressed their desire to go and see the Jewish state for themselves.

“I’m going, I’m going … the dates are on my calendar for August,” said Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas), noting that the visit will be the best way for her to learn what is happening in Israel. The daughter of a minister, Crockett called Meir “a trailblazer and leader for women’s rights on the global stage” and said that Israel is leading the way in so many areas including technology and biomedical technology.

Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.), whose district includes “over 100,000 practicing Jews” in Rockland, Westchester, Putnam and Orange counties, said he was working on legislation that would create a special envoy for the Abraham Accords. He was hoping to make the bill a bipartisan effort, noting that the accords are “pivotal for peace in Israel.”

The current internal challenges facing Israel—namely the concern over judicial reforms—were also mentioned during the two-hour program as New York Rep. Jerry Nadler noted the recent protests that have rocked the Jewish state, saying it is facing the “greatest internal challenge” and that “God willing Israel will remain a democracy.”

Rechnitz, who spoke a short time later, noted that it is only because Israel is such a strong democracy that the marches and rallies both for and against judicial reform have been allowed to take place.

The bipartisan efforts to create the Golda Meir commemorative coin were spearheaded in the House by Wasserman Schultz and in the Senate by Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.). It will require the approval from the two-thirds majority of both Houses of Congress in order for the measure to be sent to President Joe Biden for his signature.

If approved, the U.S. Treasury will create up to 50,000 $5 gold coins; 400,000 $1 silver coins; and 750,000 half-dollar coins. The coins would be on sale for a limited time in 2026, and would include a surcharge. Funds from the surcharges will go to the Friends of Kiryat Sanz Laniado Hospital and be used to help support and grow the medical center in Netanya.

Currently, the House resolution has 39 co-sponsors including several from New York and New Jersey, such as Representatives Andrew Garbarino (R-NY), Josh Gottheimer (R-NJ), Grace Meng (D-NY); Adriano Espaillat (D-NY); Lawler; Bill Pascrell (D-NJ); Daniel Goldman (D-NY); Nicholas Langworthy (R-NY) and Marcus Molinao (R-NY). The Senate measure has seven co-sponsors.

Among the local attendees at the lunch was Alana Burman, director of the Jewish Community Relations Committee for the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey. She said it was a “lovely celebration of the diversity of the Jewish experience and the strong, deep ties and shared history of the people of Israel and America. I look forward to seeing how the bill’s progress goes now that we have had such a great kick-off event for its advocacy.”

By Faygie Holt

 

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