JBC review­er Jeff Bogursky talks with the for­mer Ambas­sador to the EU about Israel, Jew­ish con­ti­nu­ity, and the role being Jew­ish has played in his career as a pub­lic servant.

Jeff Bogursky: I noticed the names of your sev­en grand­chil­dren in the book. Five of them have Hebrew names, and two of them have Amer­i­can names. Is this due to the loca­tion that your two sons have cho­sen to live, or the lifestyle they’ve cho­sen?
Stu­art Eizen­stat:
Well, the five who have Hebrew names, Men­achem, Bracha, Eliez­er, Michal, and Yitzchak are from our old­est son, who is a baal teshu­va and ortho­dox, and the oth­er two are from our son in New York who is Con­ser­v­a­tive. One thing that has giv­en me a pow­er­ful sense of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion is that both my grand­fa­ther, who made Aliya at the age of eighty-some­thing from Atlanta after hav­ing arrived there from Rus­sia in 1904, and my great grand­fa­ther, are buried to the pub­lic ceme­tery in Petach Tik­va, only one row apart. We have many oth­er rel­a­tives and friends in Israel, but to have your grand­fa­ther and great grand­fa­ther buried there cre­ates a very pow­er­ful bond.

JHB: You were the chief domes­tic advi­sor to Pres­i­dent Carter in 1976. You are a lawyer, but you have done so many things over many years of pub­lic ser­vice. Talk­ing to young peo­ple, how does one start a career such as yours?
I start­ed in 1963, when I was select­ed as a Con­gres­sion­al intern while attend­ing the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na. I got the bug from there, came back in 1964 to work on the John­son pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. I went to Har­vard Law School. Right after that I went to work in the John­son White House for a year, serv­ing as his Research Direc­tor. When he decid­ed not to run, I went back to Atlanta and clerked with a Fed­er­al judge, then became a Pol­i­cy Direc­tor for Jim­my Carter’s guber­na­to­r­i­al cam­paign, and then four years lat­er for his pres­i­den­tial campaign.

JHB: When you think of your­self, do you see your­self in any way play­ing the role of the Shtadt­lan, or Court Jew?
: No, I strong­ly reject that des­ig­na­tion. If that’s what I was, or that’s how I was per­ceived, I could nev­er have had the influ­ence that I did. Every­one knew I was Jew­ish, knew I had Jew­ish val­ues and Jew­ish con­cerns, but I was not the Jew­ish advi­sor to Carter, I was the domes­tic pol­i­cy advi­sor. I was not the Jew­ish Ambas­sador to the Euro­pean Union, I was the Ambas­sador to the Euro­pean Union who was Jew­ish. I was not Under Sec­re­tary of Com­merce, or Under Sec­re­tary of State, or Deputy Trea­sury Sec­re­tary as the Jew; I was there because of my abil­i­ty and com­pe­tence. Now, I brought Jew­ish val­ues and that’s what led me to push the Holo­caust Resti­tu­tion to the fore­front dur­ing the Clin­ton admin­is­tra­tion, and to rec­om­mend that Pres­i­dent Carter cre­ate the US Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al Muse­um, and to cre­ate a spe­cial visa cat­e­go­ry to save Chris­tians, Bahai’s, and Jews from the Iran­ian Rev­o­lu­tion. In oth­er words, I brought with me Jew­ish per­spec­tives and insights, but I was always per­ceived, because I was, essen­tial­ly an Amer­i­can, who was a pol­i­cy expert with polit­i­cal skills. Every­one knew I had a per­spec­tive that was sus­tained by Judaism, but I was absolute­ly not the Court Jew or I would have been just a figurehead.

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Jeff Bogursky reads a lot, writes a lit­tle and talks quite a bit. He is a media exec­u­tive and expert in dig­i­tal media.