The comments and personal reminiscences focused on two main themes – the high standing and important achievements of Secretary Shultz as an accomplished international statesman, and his personal and professional commitment to the cause of Soviet Jewry. The degree to which there was synergy between the two themes is, perhaps, astonishing.
Limmud FSU generally mounts peer-led, volunteer-based gatherings of Jewish learning that specifically reach out to Russian-speaking Jews around the world from Moscow to the US West Coast, and from Europe to Israel. Yet in a project initiated by Limmud FSU founder Chaim Chesler, co-founder Sandy Cahn, and produced by Limmud FSU acting director Natasha Chechik, since the corona lockdown made physical conferences impossible, Limmud FSU has been providing digital elearning opportunities on Jewish, general – and coronavirus – topics. Sessions have also been arranged by volunteer organizing committees of the festivals. These online gatherings are an opportunity for Russian-speaking Jews to learn – and be – together, virtually.
"So many faces from the struggle are on the screen today," said Matthew Bronfman, Limmud FSU chair; "we owe Secretary Shultz a debt of gratitude. He promised the Jewish community that he would raise the issue of Soviet Jewry in every meeting with the Soviet government – and he kept that promise." Bronfman also recalled that his father, Edgar Bronfman, in his capacity as president of the World Jewish Congress, visited Moscow during the Reagan administration, when Shultz was serving as secretary of state, to press the Soviet authorities to allow Jews to live and leave freely. "As a world Jewish leader, my father could not have done any of this without the blessing and support of the US government. Shultz did not only care in words; he cared in deeds too."
Malcolm Hoenlein, an early leader of the Soviet Jewry struggle in USA and longtime executive vice-chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, called Shultz "a unique leader… a man of humility and integrity, with a deep concern and sincerity of support" for the issue of Soviet Jewry.
It was a sentiment echoed by Julius Berman, the organization's former chair, and later president of the Claims Conference; "he was the sweetest and kindest person in the world, soft spoken, extremely powerful – but modest as heck."
Shultz was, said Jewish Agency chair, Isaac Herzog, "a great American leader and statesman. He had wisdom and understood the intricacies of the world. And he was a sworn friend of Israel."
He was, said David Harris, CEO of the American Jewish Committee and formerly of the National Coalition Supporting Soviet Jewry, "a diplomat's diplomat, a humanist's humanist, a statesman's statesman, who understood the concept of 'let my people go' and was committed to it."