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AFSI Founder Herb Zweibon Dies At 84

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Veteran pro-Israel activist Herbert Zweibon, founder and chairman of Americans for a Safe Israel/AFSI, passed away in New York on Jan. 20 at age 84.

“It’s hard to come to grips with the loss of such a giant of a man as Herb Zweibon,” said AFSI Executive Director Helen Freedman. “The biblical roadmap requiring a whole Israel – ‘Yisrael shleyma‘ – became Herb’s guiding philosophy.

“It was my great privilege to work alongside this kind, wise, dedicated visionary for fifteen years. The experiences we shared on chizuk missions to the threatened communities in Israel, our educational trips to Washington, our many demonstrations on behalf of Israel, the AFSI conferences, were all memorable events.

“But most of all, Herb never brooded over the many problems confronting Israel. Instead, he was always thinking of what could be done to improve the situation. This was Herb’s great gift to us – his ability to understand the larger picture and to create the path to positive action on behalf of a whole and safe Israel.”

Moshe Phillips, president of the Philadelphia chapter of Americans for a Safe Israel, said Zweibon “was born and raised in an extended family that was one of the leading pillars of the Jabotinsky movement in America since the 1940s. No American did more in the last 20 years to make sure Jabotinsky’s memory was perpetuated than Herb.”

Phillips pointed out that AFSI under Zweibon’s direction organized and sponsored an annual Manhattan memorial event for Jabotinsky and in 2010 distributed a biographical booklet titled “Jabotinsky – The Man And The Vision,” written by AFSI’s Jerusalem representative William Mehlman (available online at www.afsi.org/pamphlets/Jabotinsky).

Zweibon, Phillips added, “was one of the key financial supporters who enabled Shmuel Katz to research and write his groundbreaking 1996 two-volume biography of Jabotinsky, Lone Wolf. Herb had AFSI continue to sell and distribute Lone Wolf and Katz’s other classic books even after Katz’s death in 2008.”

As a means of perpetuating Jabotinsky’s teachings, Zweibon came up with the idea of a nationwide essay contest for Israeli high school students and, said Phillips, “was involved in every detail of the initiative. The inaugural contest, in 2010, marked the 70th anniversary of Jabotinsky’s death.”

The Jabotinsky National Essay Contest, Phillips noted, “had 15 winners and hundreds of competitors with an awards ceremony held in the Knesset.”

David Wilder, spokesman for the Jewish community of Hebron, described Zweibon as “a righteous man [who] will be sorely missed.”

Wilder described AFSI as “one of those rare organizations which I can define as pure. Without any hidden agendas, without any need or desire for anything for itself.”

Ruth King, an editorial board member of AFSI’s monthly Outpost publication, recalled Zweibon as “a proud Zionist who was never dazzled by momentary hallucinations of peace and recognition from Israel’s enemies. He remained unbowed in the face of trendy feel-good pretense and was committed to the fact that only a safe, secure and impregnable Israel within its legitimate and historic borders was the sole guarantor for the safety of Jews in the world.”

Zweibon himself explained that the goal of AFSI was not to support the government of Israel but rather the land of Israel.

“It makes little difference to us whether the government of the United States or the government of Israel believe that they can somehow compromise with the Muslim community. This just will not happen,” he said in a 2007 interview with the Jerusalem Post.

“Everyone has a responsibility to prevent someone else from committing suicide,” he said.

Zweibon is survived by his wife, Sheila; sons Donald, Mark and Kenneth; grandchildren Zachary, Jesse, Danielle, Michelle, and Shou; and his sister, Lillian Rudnick.

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About the Author: Jason Maoz is the Senior Editor of The Jewish Press.


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