Notes from GA: Meet the Jewish-American-Israeli

Imagining a world where Michael Oren is the US president, not the ambassador to the US, and Yoni Netanyahu made it big in Hollywood

November 8, 2011 20:58
2 minute read.
Michael Oren

Michael Oren pose 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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DENVER – If there ever was a display of how strong ties are between Israel and the US it took place at the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly on Monday, where Israeli Ambassador to the US Dan Shapiro and US Ambassador to Israel Michael Oren gave a joint interview.

Oh, sorry. I meant to write Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren, and US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, of course.

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But watching the two US-born Jewish diplomats speak on stage about the Israel- Arab conflict, the Iranian threat and their Jewish upbringing, it was easy to forget who represented which country.

Oren and Shapiro agreed on a wide range of issues, both saying their greatest desires for the future of the region was to see a US-brokered peace deal between Israel and Arab countries.

Shapiro spoke about how studying at university in Israel had a profound effect on him and praised the benefits of being fluent in Hebrew. Then Oren shared with the audience his love of football and how he wept when he had to give up his US citizenship to become Israel’s ambassador.

Throughout the half-hour interview the two diplomats seemed cut from the same cloth. And why wouldn’t they? They are, to varying degrees, Jewish-American-Israelis, and they weren’t the only members of that cohort to make an appearance that day.

Minutes before they took the stage Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the plenary in a recorded message from Israel.


Netanyahu who is often dubbed Israel’s “first American-style prime minister,” owes his excellent command of English and deep familiarity with US culture to the time he spent in Philadelphia as a youth.

Just imagine a world where Benzion Netanyahu, the prime minister’s historian father, during one of his many sojourns in the US, decided to stay with his family there instead of returning to Jerusalem – just like Benjamin Emmanuel, another Irgun alumni from Israel and the father of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, did.

In this bizarro world Yoni Netanyahu did not die a hero’s death in a daring Israeli raid to free hostages in Uganda but became a successful talent agent in Hollywood a la Ari Emmanuel of Entourage fame; Binyamin Netanyahu is the combative mayor of Philadelphia and Rahm Emmanuel is the prime minister of Israel addressing the GA via satellite from Jerusalem (“His English is really good,” the Jewish-American delegates would whisper in awe.)

The Netanyahus, the Emanuels, the Shapiros and the Orens are – again, to varying degrees – part of a growing group of Jews who spend time in both countries and generally fit into an emerging Jewish-American- Israeli demographic. As economic ties continue to grow, travel becomes cheaper and the Internet makes a mockery of geography, their numbers are likely to grow.

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