Photo Credit: Jodie Maoz

On a hot summer day in 2011 I was delivering my first pro-Israel class to my new synagogue’s (Boca Raton Synagogue) teen group. I was nervous, not knowing if Florida teens would take to pro-Israel advocacy as my Beverly Hill’s Synagogue teens had taken to activism. The class went well, and after the class one teen, Jonah, waited to talk to me. “I know two teens, twins, who would love this class, but they’re not members of the synagogue, would you be okay with them attending?” I said sure, and he said he’d call me if they were interested.

A few hours later, Jonah called me and told me that not only do his friends want to join the class, but their father overheard the conversation and offered to speak to the group as well. All too familiar with know-it-all-parents who love to spout their views to captive audiences (who else would bear listening?) I demurred. Jonah insisted and explained his friends’ father was Ted Deutch, the congressman of our district. I was familiar with Congressman Deutch’s work on Israel in Congress and before that the State house but was in shock that he would volunteer to speak without even being asked! I’ve known many members of Congress and none had ever pro-actively offered to speak to my students.

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I quickly got to know Congressman Deutch, and we became friends. From that first talk he gave to my teens to the tens more he would deliver over the next ten years, Congressman Deutch always made time for his constituents and especially students. Of his many admirable qualities, his dedication to the next generation – teens who couldn’t vote, donate, or offer him anything – reflected his true character. When constituents met with Congressman Deutch, he gave them his full attention no matter their age or position. His authenticity oozes from him.

Congressman Deutch began his Israel activism as a teenager and continued throughout his college years. As a young lawyer he joined the first class of AIPAC’s National Leadership Network, using his time, energy and resources to form a relationship with members of Congress to advocate for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. He caught the bug – or always had it – and ran for the Florida State Senate where he served with distinction until running for Congress in 2010. He has served Southern Florida, including Boca Raton, ever since and has won every election easily.

In a district with a heavily Republican population, Deutch’s continued victories didn’t surprise many who knew his legislative record. Deutch was the only Democratic member of Congress to win a district that voted for Mitt Romney in the 2014 presidential election. His secret to continued election victories wasn’t just his winning personality or dedication to his constituents; it was his stellar legislative record on Israel. Ted Deutch wasn’t only a sure vote on Israel-focused legislation, he was a leader.

Congressman Deutch was the author, spearhead and leader who pushed through almost every piece of pro-Israel legislation that passed through the House over the past decade. Of all his achievements in elected office, his 2007 spearheading a successful Iran divestment bill in the Florida State Senate; his serving as ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s influential Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee where he led a fact-finding mission in the Middle East in the summer of 2014 when three Israeli innocent teens, Gilad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach, were murdered by Hamas terrorists; and his strong and courageous opposition to his party’s president on the 2015 Iran deal, rank near the top. Of course, who can forget his impassioned speech in 2021 when Congress deliberated Iron Dome funding and he called out his colleague Rashida Tlaib for her antisemitism? It was something unheard of on the floor of the House until that day.

Congress and the U.S.-Israel relationship won’t be the same without Congressman Ted Deutch. I’m excited to see what he’ll accomplish in the future. While most people will always think of Congressman Deutch as an elected leader, he started off as an advocate, and it’s fitting that he’s returning to be the CEO of the American Jewish Committee, one of the largest Jewish advocacy organizations in the world. Israel has lost one of its strongest voices in Congress but gained a great voice in the advocacy realm.

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Rabbi Uri Pilichowski is an educator who teaches in high schools across the world. He teaches Torah and Israel political advocacy to teenagers and college students. He lives with his wife and six children in Mitzpe Yericho, Israel. You can follow him on Facebook, and on twitter @rationalsettler.