An Ardent Plea: Reconsider Closing the Israeli Consulate

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The consulate’s resources help to empower the smaller communities with the facts, faces and a more personal connection to Israel during a time when Israel continues to be under fire and tensions in our country run high.

Dear Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

I write this as a former Jewish Federation executive from Reading who is gravely concerned about the decision to close the Consulate General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region and the closure’s impact on the rural communities it serves.

Having lived and worked as a Jewish public service professional in Berks County, I know firsthand the consulate’s important role in the smaller Jewish communities throughout Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio, Delaware, West Virginia and southern New Jersey.


I have been fortunate to have directly worked with Consul Generals Daniel Kutner and Yaron Sideman and Deputy Consul Generals Raslan Abu Rukun and Elad Strohmayer. They have served as outstanding representatives of the state of Israel and have been invaluable resources to our communities.

Although I am told that the decision to close the consulate is final, I doubt the state of Israel would exist today if a rejection letter were left to be the final word. I feel compelled to write a letter that may help you best understand the important investment Israel is making in communities throughout the region whose only direct connection to Israel is the consul general, deputy consul general or a program made possible thanks to their exceptional staff.

The consulate’s resources help to empower the smaller communities with the facts, faces and a more personal connection to Israel during a time when Israel continues to be under fire and tensions in our country run high.

For the Israeli government, it may seem that New York City should be capable of providing the perfunctory services of the Philadelphia consulate, inspire donors and garner their support, all while engaging Jews, expats and the broader community in conversations that provide understanding and support for the state of Israel.

But, respectfully, I would like to remind you that it is a “big” America — physically and politically, a country bifurcated by left and right, distracted with gun control, immigration, social inequality and a troubling presidential race. If ever Israel needed boots on our ground, now is the time. And “boots” in Philadelphia and the states served by the Mid-Atlantic consulate remain critical.

As the threat of radicalized Islamic extremists grows, the voice of Israel, the only democratic voice in the Middle East, must continue to be loud and very clear. Places of worship, colleges and universities in smaller communities are no less prone to anti-Israel sentiment and the BDS rhetoric than larger cities.

Our resources, however, are much more limited, and we depend on the leadership and expertise of our consulate to help educate and empower our Jewish communities and the broader community as well.

New York City may be our Tel Aviv, but the consulate of Philadelphia serves our Negev. How can our region be strong when there is a void in its core? Much of the work of the consulate is about relationships — personal relationships that share the story of Israel and its past, its present and its future.

With all due respect to New York City, our smaller communities will lose their importance, and Israel will become even more vulnerable to criticism and misunderstanding.

I ask that you reconsider your decision to close the Consulate General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region.

Tammy K. Mitgang lives in Berks County, where she was a fundraising executive for the Jewish Federation of Reading. This article is adapted from a letter she sent to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this month.

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