Rabin Award Winner Markell Wants Company

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Jack Markell, Delaware’s chief executive, received the prestigious Yitzhak Rabin Public Service Award from the Philadelphia-Israel Chamber of Commerce on April 18.

Jack Markell would like some company: Delaware’s chief executive is tired of being the only sitting Jewish governor in the United States.
As honored as he is to have been elected twice by his constituents — and pleased religion was never an issue — he’d rather share the honor.
 “Certainly on a national level, I hope more Jews will be elected as governor,” said the 55-year-old Markell, who received the prestigious Yitzhak Rabin Public Service Award from the Philadelphia-Israel Chamber of Commerce on April 18. “It would be great to have some company, but I’m proud to be the one.”
He’s equally proud to accept the Rabin Award, presented for “his leadership in fostering the more than a decade strong commercial and research ties between Israel and the state of Delaware.” But the Democrat said he’s by no means the only one deserving of the honor.
“For me, it’s really a recognition of the work the state of Delaware — generally  — has done to expand ties with Israel,” he said before heading off to his sister’s house for a Passover Seder. “Any award named after Rabin — that in itself makes it special — being what an extraordinary leader he was.
“But I’m proud of the efforts of the people of Delaware to build a stronger relationship with the people of Israel. We’ve made good progress and I look forward to making more progress.”
Markell became familiar with Israel at an early age, spending two months in Haifa while his father, William, a University of Delaware professor, taught a class. He never could’ve foreseen the lasting impact on both his personal and political life.
“My first visit to Israel came when I was 6,” said Markell, elected twice by landslides, garnering 67.5 percent and 69.1 percent of the votes in 2008 and 2012, respectively. “All the times I went to Israel as a kid, obviously I never expected to go back as governor.
“But I certainly would not have expected to go back as governor out of the conviction that the future prosperity of the people of Delaware is largely tied to how effectively we connect to the people around the world. In the case of Israel, there’s so much to learn.
“I remember going to the Weitzman Institute as a little kid. To see the impact it has on the research world now is pretty extraordinary.”
Such commitment makes Markell a worthy choice for the Rabin Award, according to Dr. Renee Baker, senior manager at Aberdeen Asset Management, Inc.
“We live in a global world and must seek opportunities beyond our backyards,” Baker said. “Since taking office nearly eight years ago, it has been Gov. Markell’s priority to engage Delaware in the global economy while seeking ways to encourage foreign investment in the state.
 “During the Markell administration, Israel friendship, commercial and academic ties with the First State have been elevated to a new level. Gov. Markell sees the opportunity in leveraging Israeli innovation, with the potential of scaling these companies in Delaware. Israel’s relationship with the First State and the region is stronger because of his leadership.”
Under Markell’s stewardship, Delaware has led annual corporate, trade and academic missions to Israel, which has resulted in thousands of Israeli high-tech and other businesses being incorporated within the state. Consequently, that’s provided these companies with greater access to capital and commercial markets around the world, which has generated billions of dollars invested in the Israeli economy.
The efforts of his administration solidifying ties with Israel should ensure Delaware remains fully committed in global economy.
Previous winners of the Rabin Award, which was created in 2005, include former Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord, former Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter, former Philadelphia consul general of Israel Daniel Kutner and U.S. Airways. In 2015, it was shared among Drexel University, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
For Markell, who has relatives living in Israel from Haifa through Eilat, the honor was personally gratifying.
“My mom (Elaine) was able to come to see it,” he revealed. “She’s been a member of Hadassah forever and feels such a strong connection. And my mother’s aunt lived about two blocks from Rabin Square. Since he died, every time I’ve gone to Israel, I’ve gone back there and taken it all in.”
During his last visit, he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as President Shimon Peres. In addition, he became further convinced about the importance of stopping the BDS movement.
“It’s ridiculous,” Markell said of BDS. “Let’s face it. Israel is the only democracy in the region, and I think this BDS movement is so political and does not reflect the reality on the ground. That’s not to say anything’s perfect, but it’s a very unfortunate movement.”
Yet matters like BDS or Judaism in general seldom arise when Markell meets with constituents.
“The great thing about it is it never comes up in my state,” said Markell, who did overlap with fellow Jewish Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania for two years during his first term. “The people of Delaware are opened minded.
“Neither time I ran did they care about my religion. They wanted to find the person to do the best job.”
Contact: jmarks@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0729

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