On Sunday morning, Agudath Israel of Maryland welcomed Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer as the guest speaker at its inaugural benefit brunch. The event took place at the Pikesville home of Rabbi Jeff & Barbara Ifrah and drew a capacity crowd of more than 120 people. This was Ambassador Dermer’s first appearance at a Jewish community event in Baltimore since his appointment as Ambassador of Israel to the United States in the summer of 2013. Rabbi Ifrah opened the event with a keen insight on leadership, based on the weekly Torah portion. Agudath Israel of Maryland director, Rabbi Ariel Sadwin, then thanked the Israeli Embassy and the many people who made the event possible. Rabbi Sadwin extended a special welcome to the ambassador’s wife, Mrs. Rhoda Dermer (nee Pagano), a former Baltimorean and alumna of Bais Yaakov High School (class of ’92). Prior to introducing the guest speaker, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, spoke about how the safety of Israel’s citizens is one of the foremost concerns of the Orthodox community.
Ambassador Dermer began with the humorous observation that he is accustomed to speaking to high ranking officials and heads of state, “but at this gathering, speaking in the presence of my wife’s rabbis and teachers…that makes me nervous!” The ambassador praised the Baltimore Jewish community and its schools for their positive and lasting impact on his wife, who is, in turn, raising her children with those same refined character traits she absorbed as a child. Ambassador Dermer engaged the crowd with his quick wit and pleasant demeanor, but then quickly turned to address several serious issues, including the Iranian nuclear negotiations.
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“It used to be a deal that was focused on the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program,” he said, “now all it is, is a deal to dismantle the economic sanctions. Instead of blocking the road to a nuclear weapon, it paves the road to the bomb.” Dermer pointed out that at the very moment that negotiators were discussing the terms of a deal, the Iranian regime was publicly calling for the destruction of Israel and the United States. The ambassador recounted that at a recent meeting with members of Congress, he drove home the message that all of the empires who persecuted us have disappeared, yet the Jewish people remain. He pointed out to the representatives that upon his appointment as ambassador, he made courtesy calls to a number of ambassadors from other countries. That group did not include the ambassador of the Babylonian Empire, the Roman Empire, and not even the ambassador of the Third Reich of Germany. He called upon Jews everywhere to assist Israel by continuing to strengthen their Jewish identity and continuing to visit and live in Israel. As dangerous as things seem to be today, the ambassador asserted that Jews are safer now in Israel than they are anywhere else in the world. Today’s Jews will do whatever they need to do in order to keep their people safe and secure. To read more about Agudath Israel’s event and to see more pictures go to Baltimore Jewish Life.