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September 28, 2016

JCRC Statement on the Death of Former Israeli Prime Minister, President, and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shimon Peres, z''l

Minneapolis, MN – Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), issued the following statement in response to the death of former Israeli Prime Minister, President, and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shimon Peres, z''l:

"The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), together with the people of Israel and all over the world, mourn the loss of former Israeli Prime Minister, President, and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shimon Peres, z''l who died today after suffering a serious stroke earlier this month. Peres also served as Israel's Foreign Minister, Information Minister, Finance Minister, and Defense Minister.

"Peres was the last surviving member of Israel's founding fathers. In a career which spanned from the 1940s until his retirement as Israel's President in 2014, Shimon Peres served as Prime Minister three times — from 1984 to 1986 as part of a rotational government, and for a few months in 1995 and 1996 after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. Additionally, Peres served continuously in the Knesset (Israel's Parliament) from his election in 1959 until 2007, when he became Israel's first former Prime Minister to be elected President.

"Internationally, Peres was broadly respected for his indefatigable spirit and tireless efforts to bring about peace and reconciliation between Israel and its neighbors. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his leadership on the Oslo Accords, Peres was no 'pie in the sky' idealist having spent his early career leading Israel's nascent Ministry of Defense where he secured the alliances and arms necessary to tip the balance of power in Israel's favor and ensure the Jewish State's survival in its precarious first few decades.

"JCRC board member Jacob Millner adds, 'I had the honor to spend a few hours with Shimon Peres at his apartment earlier this year. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and one I will never forget. He was kind, courteous, and inquisitive. In private, as in public, he was the genuine statesman and peacemaker.'

"Peres was born Szymon Perski, on August 2, 1923, in Wiszniew, Poland (now Vishnyeva, Belarus). His family spoke Hebrew, Yiddish, and Russian at home, and Peres learned Polish at school. Later, Peres became fluent in English and French. Fleeing anti-Semitism, Peres returned with his family to the historic Jewish homeland in Palestine in 1934 where they settled in Tel Aviv. Tragically, all of Peres' relatives who remained in Wiszniew were murdered during the Holocaust, including many who were burned alive in the town's synagogue.

"Peres was preceded in death by his late wife, Sonya Gelman, as well as his mentors Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and legendary general and politician Moshe Dayan, as well as his friend and rival Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. With his passing, the generation of Israelis which reestablished Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel for the first time in nearly 2,000 years has now almost completely passed on. Shimon Peres' legacy, however, of Jewish strength and perpetual yearning for peace lives on. May his memory be for a blessing."

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As the public affairs voice of the Jewish community, the JCRC fights anti-Semitism and prejudice, advocates for Israel, provides Holocaust education, promotes tolerance and social justice, and builds bridges across the Jewish and broader communities.