search
Arunansh B Goswami
An Indo-Israel friendship ambassador.

Jewish Blinkens of America

Secretary of State of United States of America, Anthony J. Blinken. Image Credits: U.S. Department of State, Public Domain.

The community that gave USA its defining hymn “God Bless America,” is now facing increasingly higher verbal and physical attacks for them being who they are, Jewish. In many Colleges in the land of the free, Jewish students are being discriminated against for their Jewish identity, as per an article by Douglas Belkin in Wall Street Journal “… rising fear among some Jewish college students around the country, who have begun shrouding their religious identity and political beliefs to avoid growing ostracism and harassment, according to interviews with dozens of students. Students at schools including the University of Vermont, Wellesley College and DePaul University have ejected Jewish students who support Israel from clubs and study groups. Students at Tufts University, University of Southern California and University of California, Los Angeles tried to prevent Jewish classmates from serving in student government or attempted to remove them from positions in student government because of their support of Israel.”

Eastern European Jewish immigrants arriving in New York. Image Credits: Frank Leslie’s illustrated newspaper via Wikipedia.

Israel advocacy, is our right as free citizens of democracies, and preventing that is nothing but an attack on democratic values, which is happening in USA. Constructive debates on Israel’s right to exist are being shunned, by those who have no plausible arguments against it apart from venting invectives and unsubstantiated vituperation, the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks anti-Semitic behaviour nationwide in USA, found 2,717 incidents in 2021. That’s a 34 percent rise from the year before and averages out to more than seven anti-Semitic incidents per day. Jonathan Greenblatt is the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League and author of the recent book “It Could Happen Here.” USA is indeed going through a wave of increasing anti-Semitism. What can we do to prevent it as USA citizens and Zionists around the world? Well we need to make Americans more aware about the contributions of the Jews who made America a superpower, we need to tell them the history of patriotism that Jews have had for the USA, and remind them that they cannot be so ungrateful to foster anti-Semitism when their country has had Jews working hard for it’s glory.  In this article the author shall cover in brief the Blinkens of America, a Jewish family that has had a prominent place in the history of USA, presently Anthony J. Blinken is the Secretary of State of the USA, custodian of the great seal of the USA, and serves as the President’s principal adviser on U.S. foreign policy, along with doing other duties.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken arrives at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel. Image Credits: Ron Przysucha for U.S. Department of State, via Wikimedia Commons.

If Mr. Anthony J. Blinken gets time in his busy schedule to read this article he should as a Jew and as a person with a family history of having been persecuted for being Jewish, should work hard to obliterate anti-Semitism around the world that would be a great service he could do to his community and stand as a great friend of Israel. India, Israel and USA in-fact have the ability to protect the world from dictatorial powers in various part of the world. 

The Yiddish Writer

Yiddish writer Meir Blinken. Image Credits: Wikipedia.

Meir Blinken a Jew who fled pogroms in Eastern Europe and arrived in USA happens to be the great-grandfather of the present Secretary of State of the United States of America Anthony J. Blinken. As per Ruth R. Wisse, Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Comparative Literature at Harvard, Meir Blinken was born in 1879, twenty years after the great Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem, in the same small town of Pereyeslav, within the Jewish Pale of Settlement. Meir recalled his birthplace as a poor, insulated community, “surrounded by high thick woods, as though designed to prevent strangers from prying.” While he was still a boy, his parents moved with him to Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine, evidently seeking better economic opportunities for themselves and their children. As a major city, Kiev was outside the limits of Jewish settlement, except for that tiny minority with capital or skills that were considered essential. The parents of Meir Blinken were probably among the many hundreds of Jews who were driven by poverty to try their luck in the larger city despite the fugitive existence to which this condemned them. Blinken was educated in a Talmud Torah, a community-supported Jewish primary school, and then at the Kiev Trade School, where he received a secular education. He began the study of medicine, but because of the need for a residence permit, granted only to those engaged in useful trade, he was also apprenticed to a cabinetmaker to learn the skills of carpentry. When Meir was 25 years old, he and his young family moved to the U.S., a tiny drop in the flood of 105,000 Jews who arrived in America in 1904. There he opened a private massage office on East Broadway. This district was filled with the bustling life and Yiddish culture of Jewish emigrants from Eastern Europe. In the early 1900s, the Lower East Side had the highest concentration of Jews on the planet: 300,000 Jews occupying one square mile.

The Ambassadors

Donald M. Blinken father of Anthony J. Blinken, was chairman of the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York one of the largest public institutions of higher education in the world. From 1978-1990, he was sworn in as Ambassador to the Republic of Hungary by Vice President Al Gore on March 29, 1994 and served until 1997. In 1998, he was named Chancellor of the International Council of Central European University. It was under the Presidentship of Donald M. Blinken that The Mark Rothko Foundation  announced that it was giving 89 paintings and works on paper by the artist to 31 American and foreign museums. ‘It marks a culmination of the foundation’s activities,” said Donald Blinken, then president of the foundation. Donald M. Blinken also served as President of the Brooklyn Academy of Music from 1970 to 1976, was a member of the Executive Committee of the New York Public Library, a Board member and former Chairman of the Contemporary Publication Committee, and overseer of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, and a member of the Trustees’ Council of the National Gallery of Art. 

Alan J. Blinken was the United States Ambassador to Belgium from 1993-1998. In an interview to Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project in 2009, Ambassador Alan J. Blinken told the interviewer Charles Stuart Kennedy that he was born in New York City, and when telling about his ancestry he said “Well, Kiev in Russia, or the Ukraine today, was not a place that was comfortable for somebody who was Jewish. His father( Alan’s grandfather) had been a well-known playwright poet. In fact, my father, before the Berlin Wall came down, commissioned somebody to get all the writings of his father that could be found there, which were then brought over to the United States. My father had them translated and published here, and given to many universities, public libraries, etc. So, my father came from there. My mother’s family was already first generation. Her parents had come over from Germany during the 1880s during that period of migration from there. Of course, being German Jewish – somebody from Eastern Europe, especially somebody whose family had no business, didn’t know much. As history would have it, of course, my mother’s family lost everything in the depression. My father was up and coming and doing very well. He ended up supporting them.”

For 18 years, Alan J. Blinken was the treasurer of something called Africa Medical and Research Foundation, which today is the largest NGO supplying medical training and health care services in Africa. It works in 15 countries. Ambassador Alan J. Blinken in the aforementioned interview said “The little tiny part of it( Africa Medical and Research Foundation ) that some people have heard of in this country is called I Doctors. For instance, during the problem in Somalia, some years ago, we took care of 472,000 Somali refugees across the border in Kenya. Even to the present, it’s the only formal medical assistance and training in all of the southern Sudan. There was a point when it was the only medicine in Uganda under Idi Amin, training and supplies.”

A Holocaust Survivor

Late Samuel Pisar a Holocaust survivor was an International Lawyer, and happens to be the step father of the current US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and had a profound impact on his intellectual development as per him. He opened a law office in Paris representing high-watt names, including Catherine Deneuve, Jane Fonda, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, whose first divorce he negotiated. He counselled President Valery Giscard d’Estaing of France, represented Coca-Cola and the Republic of China. Pisar met Blinken’s mother, Judith Blinken then married to Donald M. Blinken, at a New York soiree in 1968, Judith later divorced Donald in 1970 and married Samuel Pisar in 1971. The New York Times reported on October 28 1986, “ An American lawyer said here today that he had been allowed to speak up on behalf of five Jews who were arrested late Saturday for disturbing the peace during an noisy holiday celebration on the street outside the Moscow Synagogue. The lawyer, Samuel Pisar, who practices in New York and Paris and is often involved in dealings with the Soviet Union….American lawyers have been allowed in the past to assist Americans in Soviet legal cases, but Mr. Pisar seemed to be the first American to walk off the street to offer his services in a case involving Soviet citizens. ”

He was 10 years old when the Germans and Soviets invaded his native Poland in 1939. In the ensuing years, he and his family lived under Soviet occupation, then were temporarily shunted to a ghetto by the Nazis. Mr. Pisar’s parents, David and Helena Suchowolski Pisar, and his younger sister, Frieda, were killed in the Holocaust. Pisar wrote in an article in Washington Post, “ I was shunted to Sachsenhausen near Berlin, then Leonberg near Stuttgart, then Dachau near Munich — camps normally reserved for political prisoners, common criminals and homosexuals….. After four years in the pit of the inferno, I, convict No. B-1713, also known as Samuel Pisar, son of a loving family that had been wiped off the earth, have actually survived to behold the glorious insignia of the United States Army.” Mr. Pisar wrote a version of the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, first performed in 2003 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. A highlight for Mr. Pisar was the ability to perform his Kaddish in Israel in 2009, to a hushed audience at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum. The concert was a memorial to the victims of the Warsaw ghetto. He was also the Founder-President of Yad Vashem France, and a Director of the Fondation pour la Memoir de la Shoah (Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah), the Aladdin Project and other public interest institutions. The Pisar holocaust studies Program for educators at Yad Vashem’s international school for holocaust studies in memory of samuel Pisar was made possible through the generous support of the Pisar family.

Secretary of State of The United States of America

Secretary of State of United States of America Anthony J. Blinken. Image Credits: U.S. Department of State, Public Domain.

Antony J. Blinken was sworn in as the 71st U.S. Secretary of State on January 26, 2021, before that he had served as deputy secretary of state for President Barack Obama from 2015 to 2017, and before that, as President Obama’s principal deputy national security advisor. He was born to Jewish parents Judith and Donald Blinken. A graduate of Harvard College and Columbia Law School, Anthony Blinken made his bar mitzvah at Temple Emanuel in Yonkers, he visited Israel as a child with his family in the company of Israeli relatives. Samuel Pisar wrote in his memoir, “Of Blood and Hope,” with evident pride of Antony climbing Masada as a kid while the family rode the cable car. Blinken’s stepfather, like most survivors, saw Israel as a haven and viewed its establishment with gratitude and sometimes with the guilt of having gone elsewhere. Israeli leaders were guests in Pisar’s home and friends of the family.

At an annual conference last year in December of J Street, a pro-Israel group that has distinguished itself from the much larger and older American Israel Public Affairs Committee by advancing positions often supported by the Democratic Party, Anthony J. Blinken said “Partnership (The U.S.-Israel ) — and all that it’s produced for the people of our nations and the world — has always been underwritten by the United States ironclad commitment to Israel’s security, a commitment that has never been stronger than it is today.

In July, the leaders of India, Israel, the UAE, and the United States convened virtually for the first summit of a group that we call I2U2, focused on marshalling the strengths of our governments, our private sectors, civil societies to solve fundamental challenges facing our people – starting with the twin food security and energy crises that we’re living through.

Integrating Israel also means continuing to fight for Israel to be treated the same way as every other nation – no more, no less. 

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken Meets with Indian Minister of External Affairs Dr. S. Jaishankar at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on April 11, 2022. Image Credits: Freddie Everett for U.S. Department of State, via Wikimedia Commons.


Let’s hope that during the tenure of Anthony J. Blinken as the Secretary of State, India Israel and USA May they be as a part of I2U2 or otherwise, work to together to strengthen ourselves and protect each other from our common enemies, and work together to obliterate anti-Semitism from the face of the earth.

References:

  1. Stories by Meir Blinkin (SUNY Series in Modern Jewish Literature and Culture) Translated from the Yiddish by Max Rosenfeld. With an introduction by Ruth R. Wisse.
  2. Of Blood and Hope book by Samuel Pisar.
  3. Alan J. Blinken’s interview interview to Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project in 2009.
  4. Vera and the Ambassador: Escape and Return by Vera Blinken & Donald Blinken.
  5. Secretary Antony J. Blinken’s speech at the J Street National Conference.
  6. “ Antisemitism Is Rising at Colleges, and Jewish Students Are Facing Growing Hostility ” article by Douglas Belkin for Wall Street Journal.

About the Author
Mr. Arunansh B. Goswami is an advocate, historian and popular author based in India. He studied history at St. Stephen’s College in Delhi, read law at Campus Law Centre, University of Delhi, completed a diploma in International Environmental Law, and later joined the Bar Council of Delhi and Supreme Court Bar Association in India. Mr. Goswami has written around 200 articles for different prestigious publications, newspapers, magazines and journals around the world. He works as a consultant with Union Minister of Steel and Civil Aviation of India, Mr. J. M. Scindia and Mrs. Priyadarshini Raje Scindia titular Queen of the erstwhile princely state of Gwalior. Mr. Goswami has studied Israeli and Jewish History deeply and travelled extensively in Israel, and other parts of the world, to explore and research about sites associated with Jews.