U.S. Jews remember former first lady and American ‘matriarch’ Barbara Bush

“Barbara Bush displayed the high American qualities of devotion to and love of country and family."

April 18, 2018 20:44
3 minute read.
U.S. Jews remember former first lady and American ‘matriarch’ Barbara Bush

Barbara Bush, the mother of US President George W. Bush, watches the Carnival parade from a VIP room at the Sambadrome stadium, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, February 10, 2002. (photo credit: JAMIL BITTAR/REUTERS)


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NEW YORK – Members of the American Jewish community fondly remembered former first lady of the United States Barbara Bush following the announcement of her death.

A private funeral for Bush, the only American woman to see her husband and son both sworn in as president, was held on Saturday at a Houston church where her family has been members since the 1950s. She was buried on the grounds of the George H.W. Bush Library and Museum at Texas A&M University in College Station, about 160 km. away, beside her daughter Robin, who died at the age of three after battling leukemia.

Bush had been battling chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart problems in recent years. She was 92.

“Barbara Bush was a true matriarch and role model for the American people,” Rabbi Marc Schneier, founder and president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, said in a statement sent to The Jerusalem Post.

“Both her husband and son served as US presidents,” he said. “Her family was her magnificent preoccupation, and as the quintessential ‘Jewish mother’ in the traditional sense, she radiated with pride the accomplishments of her husband and her children.”

Bush was the wife of the 41st president, George H.W. Bush, and mother of the 43rd, George W. Bush.

The New York native had been battling chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart problems in recent years, according to US media reports.

Simon Wiesenthal Center founder Rabbi Marvin Hier and Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper extended their condolences to the Bush family in a joint statement sent to the Post and warmly reminisced about her multiple visits to their Los Angeles facility during her husband’s presidency.

“The Simon Wiesenthal Center mourns the passing of Barbara Bush – a great first lady,” the statement read.

“The SWC fondly remembers Mrs. Bush’s two visits to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, first on the occasion of lightning the memorial flame for the six million Jews lost in the Holocaust, and again in 1991 when she accompanied her husband, president George H. Bush, who was the keynote speaker at the Wiesenthal Center’s National Tribute Dinner honoring Arnold Schwarzenegger,” it added.

Meanwhile, the American Jewish Committee described Bush as an iconic American figure who “embodied patriotism, sacrifice and a commitment to the betterment of others.”

“May her memory be for a blessing,” the AJC said in a message posted to social media.

“Barbara Bush was a fabulous First Lady and a woman unlike any other, who brought levity, love and literacy to millions,” George W. Bush said in a statement on Tuesday shortly following his mother’s death.

“To us, she was so much more,” he added. “Mom kept us on our toes and kept us laughing until the end.”

US President Donald Trump and former Democratic presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton also praised the late first lady.

“She will be long remembered for her strong devotion to country and family, both of which she served unfailingly well,” Trump and his wife, Melania, said in a statement that noted Bush’s championing of literacy “as a fundamental family value.”

Clinton, who defeated her husband in the 1992 presidential election, called Bush “fierce and feisty in support of her family and friends, her country and her causes. She showed us what an honest, vibrant, full life looks like.”

Obama and his wife, Michelle, said in a statement that Barbara Bush was “an example of the humility and decency that reflects the very best of the American spirit.”

Dubbed “The Silver Fox” by her husband and children, Bush was known for her snow-white hair and for being fiercely protective of her family.

She was first lady when her husband was in the White House from 1989 to 1993. Her son triumphed in the disputed 2000 US election and was president from 2001 to 2009. The father-and-son presidents were sometimes referred to as “Bush 41” and “Bush 43.”

The only other woman to be both wife and mother of US presidents was Abigail Adams, the first lady from 1797 to 1801. She was a major influence on husband, John Adams, the nation’s second president, but died before son John Quincy Adams was elected president in 1824.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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