When three teenage Jews approached an American lawyer on the streets of Bucharest with three bold questions, they unknowingly inspired a future U.S. Presidential advisor, UN Watch chairman, and U.S. ambassador to Romania who changed the lives of countless Romanian Jews looking for a way out of a brutal existence. Alfred Moses answered yes to three questions that day and did more than keep his promise by helping thousands of Jews get out of an Iron Curtain country.
A random encounter dating back to 1976 continues to be transformative for Moses, former president of American Jewish Committee, fin-tech entrepreneur, attorney, and 90-year-old book-tour author. Those three questions marked a life-altering moment that led him to write Bucharest Diaries, From Darkness to Light. It was a miracle that shaped the arc of his life and re-configured a country shrouded in darkness.
The reflex to step up is reflective of Moses’ basic doctrine as an observant, non-believing Jewish universalist…one who beholds the sanctity of the individual.
In an article published on Medium.com, Moses said, “My Judaism, stripped of all the mythology, is that the only commandment given to Abraham was that his sons and his household ‘will do what is right and just.’ And that is the whole of Judaism. This idea has been the foundation of my life, my work and my service to others.”
“It is true that all of us have the opportunity at one time or another to free the oppressed, to relieve the needy in big ways and small. ln, our prayer we say “matir asurim,” to free the oppressed. That is not an option. It is obligatory. So when people came up to me on the streets in Romania in 1976 and asked for my help, I had no hesitation, it was truly instinctive,” he says.
Moses is a prominent Washington D.C. attorney. For decades since the chance meeting, he has approached the plight of Romanian Jews with an investment of resources and vigor typically reserved for a major corporate client. His trailblazing work shepherding Romania to democracy and nurturing the creation of a Jewish community led to an unexpected invitation to become U.S. Ambassador to Romania in the Clinton administration, where he served for three years, 1994–1997.
Meshing with Moses’ professional life as an influential DC figure and Jewish philanthropist is a fun, and physically active strategist who still walks to appointments, and engages millennials and their grandparents with his signature storyteller’s wit and wisdom.
“I think I have a good American, Jewish, and human story,” says Moses. “I like to share it with people and get their reaction. Any day I can learn from other people and listen to them is a great day. How many people are in the Tidewater community? Tell them all to come.”
Moses will speak to the community as part of IGNITE 2020! the launch of the Community Campaign and the Simon Family JCC’s Lee & Bernard Jaffe Family Jewish Book Festival, in partnership with the Jewish Book Council.
Annie Sandler met Ambassador Moses in Romania when the rebuilding of the Jewish community was in its infancy.
After the Holocaust, the numbers were terrible. “He was a major part of the resurgence and re-establishment of a vibrant Jewish community, representing our country in an amazing way at an amazing time. Romania is the biggest success story in JDC (American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee) history,” says Sandler.
“He represents all of us,” says Sandler. “He is an all-around amazing guy who worked overtime being Jewish and a stellar American representative.”
The community is invited to spend time with and get to know this lifelong champion for change and human rights. His stories are relevant to anyone interested in U.S. foreign policy, Romania, Jewish history, and Eastern Europe.
Be sure to visit the Leon Family Gallery throughout September and October to see A Century of Activity in Romania, an American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee exhibit, upstairs at the Simon Family JCC.
To RSVP (required) for this free Simon Family JCC’s Lee & Bernard Jaffee Family Jewish Book Festival event, visit the JCC front desk or call 757-965-6124.