Kerry's Bond With Top Aide and a Legendary Dad

Image: Getty Images

Two intriguing backgrounders from the Hebrew press about Secretary of State John Kerry and his Israeli-Palestinian peace mission. One, by Yediot Ahronot veteran Washington correspondent Orly Azoulai in the Friday supplement (print, Hebrew only) contrasts Kerry’s intense commitment to the peace effort with President Obama’s utter skepticism. Obama lets Kerry have his way, she writes, because of their deep personal connection, going back to 2004 when Kerry introduced the obscure young Illinois state senator on the national stage by giving him the prime speaking slot at his nominating convention.

But why does Kerry seem so personally obsessed with this insoluble trouble-spot? Azoulai claims it’s partly due to his “many” conversations with his brother Cameron, who converted to Judaism 30 years ago, about their family’s Jewish roots and their links to Jewish destiny. She writes that they were deeply moved by the 2004 Boston Globe scoop that both their paternal grandparents were Jewish and several close relatives died in the Holocaust. (I’ve translated the key passage below.)

The other fascinating piece is this Walla News story by Amir Tibon (Hebrew only) about Kerry’s close personal bond with his aide Frank Lowenstein, point man in on-the-ground talks. Lowenstein, who joined Kerry’s campaign in 2004 as a foreign policy adviser and stayed on as chief of staff of the Senate foreign relations committee, is the son of the late, legendary antiwar congressman Allard Lowenstein. It was Lowenstein senior who first recruited Kerry to the antiwar movement in the 1960s, when Kerry was a junior at Yale and Al Lowenstein was a Senate aide. Anyone who was a young antiwar activist from Long Island in the 1960s (or not so young—I recall how shaken my own father was) remembers the shattering day in 1980 when Lowenstein was murdered by a former volunteer suffering from schizophrenia.

Today, Tibon writes, Lowenstein junior is something like an alter ego to Kerry, head of his Middle East team and the guy he leaves in the region to speak in his name after his shuttle missions. Tibon has a telling anecdote about Kerry returning to Jerusalem at 4 a.m. from a grueling negotiating session in Ramallah and deciding to get out and walk the streets of Jerusalem, accompanied only by Lowenstein.

For non-Hebrew readers, the Washington Post ran this story by Laura Blumenfeld about the Kerry-Lowenstein connection back in 2004, when Frank Lowenstein first left his real estate law practice and joined the Kerry campaign. Here’s her version of a powerful anecdote (which Tibon also recounts) about how Lowenstein left real estate to follow Kerry:

Post reporter Blumenfeld, by the way, is a significant writer and thinker in her own right on American Jews and the Middle East. She’s the author of the powerful 2003 memoir “Revenge: A Story of Hope,” about her rabbi-father’s 1986 shooting by a Palestinian terrorist. She also happens to be the daughter-in-law of the seminal Talmud scholar David Weiss Halivni. And Walla’s Tibon made some news of his own last December when he and a partner slipped into Syria and filmed a piece ([this clip] ]( has France24’s voice-over English translation) for Israel’s Channel 2 news.

Here’s my translation of the key paragraphs from Orly Azoulai’s Yediot feature on John and Cam Kerry:

Written by

J.J. Goldberg

J.J. Goldberg

Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Kerry's Bond With Top Aide and a Legendary Dad

Thank you!

This article has been sent!