There are few people with the knowledge of who’s who in the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. I’m fortunate to be one of those few people. That’s why I was so pleased when I received the news that Prime Minister Netanyahu had named Eli Groner as the new Director General of his office.
As a fully observant kipa-wearing American oleh, Eli will easily fit in with the rest of the crowd in Bibi’s inner circle. But it’s his character and his experience, his devotion and his personality, that got him this job.
In March of 2013, when launching my high school’s first-ever lobbying mission to Capitol Hill, I was tasked with searching for an individual who would be the keynote speaker for our group. I booked the event hall at Israel’s Embassy in Washington DC, and requested that one of their diplomats address our delegation of students.
Several days before the trip, the embassy called to inform me that our keynote speaker would be a man by the name of Eli Groner. They described to me as someone who deals with the financial and economic affairs at the embassy.
As the description seemed a bit vague, I asked for more information. The embassy then told me about how good he is at baseball. This, of course, didn’t seem at all like a clear enough description of the person who would be our keynote speaker.
I had never heard of him ever before, and didn’t think that most of my friends attending were interested in hearing about financial and economic issues. Baseball, perhaps, they would tolerate. After thinking over the possibly positive outcomes such a briefing could have, I decided to go along with it.
It turned out, to our surprise, that Eli’s speech was actually the most fascinating part of the day. Yes, he touched upon finance and economics, and yes, his baseball career got a shout out as well.
But the core focus of Eli’s speech was the motivational, inspirational, and encouraging words he had for our group when preparing us for speaking up for Israel. His passion was something so many of us easily identified with, and his vision was something so many of us took to heart.
Eli’s speech was so impressive that my friends would always ask me when we would go back to the embassy to hear him again. They truly enjoyed the experience of meeting him.
I have been very fortunate to maintain my personal connection with Eli, during his often frequent visits to New York to spend time with his cousins who attend my local synagogue.
Eli’s most recent visit to my neighborhood was this past August, as he was concluding his diplomatic tour.
It was during the final days of Operation Protective Edge, and many kids in my shul were just returning home from camp. When I saw Eli in shul on Friday night, I asked him if he would address our teen minyan the following morning about the ongoing war in Israel. He immediately agreed to do so.
The next day, for the second time, I was introducing Eli to yet another group of kids, all of whom were concerned and worried about the dangerous situation that was occurring in Israel.
When Eli spoke to our teen minyan before Mussaf that Shabbat, he explained that we were right to be worried and concerned for Israel as it fought Hamas. But he also expressed the need for all of us to speak up and explain to the world that Israel is better than Hamas, that Israel values life while Hamas values death, and that all moral people should side with those who stand for life.
Eli’s talent is one that must never go unnoticed. That’s why I am so proud that he has been tapped to direct the Prime Minister’s Office. They need him, we need him, and he will do an excellent job. I guarantee it.