Teddy Roosevelt, one of the first American Zionist presidents – opinion

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President Theodore Roosevelt is known for a lifetime of remarkable achievement, accomplished at a whiplash-blowing speed. He rose from New York City Police Commissioner to Assistant Secretary of the US Navy, led some of the famous Rough Riders who helped win the Spanish American War, achieved Colonel status in the Army American, was elected Governor of New York, Vice President of the United States, President of the United States, and was the first American to win the Nobel Peace Prize – all before the age of 50.

However, what is often overlooked in his incredible resume is having been one of the first Zionist presidents of the United States.

“It seems to me that it is entirely appropriate to create a Zionist state around Jerusalem,” Roosevelt said in 1918, a decade after leaving the presidency and a year after the Balfour declaration. This statement should come as no surprise to those who have followed Teddy throughout his career.

Originally from New York, Roosevelt was very familiar with its Jewish neighborhoods and inhabitants. He cared deeply for this community and carried it into his role as New York City Police Commissioner.

“Experience after experience of excellent service – a great job of what I might call the Maccabee guy in the police service under my command by policemen of Jewish descent,” Roosevelt wrote in his autobiography.

US NAVY F / A-18E Super Hornets fly over Mount Rushmore in South Dakota in 2006 (Credit: ANTHONY DOBSON-US NAVY / HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

He once forced an anti-Semitic preacher demanding the security of a rally to accept a Jewish security detail to show how ridiculous his actions were.

As a colonel of the famous Rough Riders, Roosevelt led a volunteer cavalry in the United States Army which included a large Jewish population. The first Rough Rider to die in combat was Jacob Wilbusky, a 16-year-old Jewish Texan. Teddy’s fame on San Juan Hill led him to governorate New York, in part gaining significant Jewish support. Jews associated Roosevelt’s defeat in Spain with Jewish troops as revenge for the Spanish Inquisition of 1492, generating a Jewish rallying call for his candidacy.

After serving a term as governor, Roosevelt was elected vice president alongside William McKinley.

McKinley would be assassinated in the first year of his second term, making Roosevelt the youngest president in U.S. history. As president, Roosevelt appointed the first-ever Jewish cabinet member, Oscar Solomon Straus, as Secretary of Commerce and Labor.

Roosevelt did not hesitate to support Jews around the world. After the massacre of 49 Jews during the Kishinev pogroms in 1903, Roosevelt directly called the Tsar. When there was a backlash against Jewish immigrants fleeing to the United States, Roosevelt came to their aid, saying, “I shouldn’t have a man on a passport as a Hebrew any more than a Catholic.” “

Roosevelt received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese War, and would donate some of the prize money to the National Jewish Welfare Board.

With October 27 marking Teddy Roosevelt’s 163rd birthday, it seems essential to remember such a celebrated aspect of his life. Indeed, Teddy had a great admiration for Jews, keeping two menorahs on display in his home in Oyster Bay, Long Island.

While we regularly think of Roosevelt as an environmentalist, a rough rider, or a global force of nature, let’s take a moment to reflect on Teddy Roosevelt, the Zionist and staunch supporter of the Jewish people.

The author is a Master of Public Policy (Environmental Policy) student at Arizona State University.


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