Chronology: Maryland and Israel Part 3, 1950 to 2008
Compiled by Avi Y. Decter and Dr. Deborah R. Weiner. Originally published in Generations 2007-2008: Maryland and Israel.
Missed the beginning? Start here.
In an historic exchange, Baltimorean Jacob Blaustein, president of the American Jewish Committee, and Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion agree that “(1) the Jews of the United States, as a community and as individuals, have only one political attachment, namely, to the United States of America; (2) that the Government and people of Israel respect the integrity of Jewish life in the democratic countries and the right of the Jewish communities to develop their indigenous social, economic, and cultural aspirations, in accordance with their own needs and institutions; and (3) that Israel fully accepts the fact that the Jews in the United States do not live ‘in exile,’ and that America is home for them.” The agreement also stipulates that American Jews will not interfere in Israeli politics. The Blaustein-Ben-Gurion agreement is reaffirmed in 1961, 1963 and 1970.
The Associated sends its first Mission to Israel. To date, hundreds of community leaders and public officials have participated in dozens of Associated Missions to Israel.
Novelist and Baltimore native Leon Uris publishes Exodus, a fictionalized account of the establishment of the state of Israel. A publishing sensation, it becomes the best-selling American novel since Gone with the Wind. Its heroic portrayal of the men and women who fought to create the Jewish state has a profound impact on American public opinion, helping to build support for Israel and shaping the popular narrative about Israel’s founding for decades to come.
With Israel on the brink of war, around 8,000 people rally at the Pikesville Armory on 4 June to express their solidarity. Speakers included Chizuk Amuno Rabbi Israel Goldman, U.S. Senator Joseph Tydings, and Baltimore Mayor Theodore McKeldin. The Six-Day War breaks out the next day. An Israel Emergency Fund is established in Baltimore within hours after hostilities began, and $3.2 million is pledged during the week.
Thousands gather at the Pikesville Armory on 9 October, once again rallying to support Israel during a time of war. The Yom Kippur War also brings forth another outpouring of financial support as the Jewish community mobilizes its fundraising capabilities.
Also in the early 1970s, Marylanders become active in the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) under the leadership of Paul Cordish. They work to educate and lobby elected officials in support of Israeli policies, and to involve more members of the Jewish community in championing the Israeli cause. Eventually a local AIPAC Council is formed in Baltimore; its office opens in 2005. The local effort produces such national leaders as current AIPAC Chairman Howard Friedman.
Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer and Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Moshe Arad, sign a Declaration of Cooperation to promote economic development between Maryland and Israeli businesses and research institutions. The following year, Governor Schaefer leads a trade mission to Israel.
The Maryland/Israel Development Center is established to promote economic development in Maryland and Israel by fostering trade, investment, and joint ventures. The Center incorporates as a public-private partnership between The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, Israel’s Ministry of Industry and Trade, and the Jewish Agency for Israel.
Birthright Israel launches its first trips to Israel. The initiative offers free, first-time educational trips for Jewish young adults ages 18 to 26 in order to strengthen participants’ personal Jewish identity and connection to the Jewish people. Maryland organizations sponsoring trips include the Hillels at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University. In its first decade, more than 7,000 Marylanders participate in Birthright Israel trips.
The Associated launches a “sister city” partnership with the Israeli city of Ashkelon, with the goal of strengthening relations among Jews in Israel and the diaspora. The partnership aims to create ties between the people of Ashkelon and Baltimore; it also develops joint projects to build Jewish identity, foster leadership and volunteerism, improve social services, Jewish education, and health care, and promote economic development. As a result of the partnership, in 2005, Baltimore City establishes a sister city relationship with Ashkelon, focusing on cultural and economic exchange.
To celebrate Israel’s 60th Anniversary, the Jewish Museum of Maryland installs Dateline: Israel – New Photography and Video Art, an exhibition organized by The Jewish Museum in New York. The exhibition is accompanied by public and family programs and a new educational resource kit, Kesher Israel.