Jewish leaders, organizations mourn passing of World War II vet, longtime senator Bob Dole

The Jerusalem Embassy Act “would never have happened without Robert Dole’s support and lobbying.”

By Dmitriy Shapiro,

Former longtime Kansas Republican senator, leader and 1996 GOP nominee for president Bob Dole died on Dec. 5 at the age of 98.

Dole’s death was announced by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation on Sunday morning, saying that Dole died in his sleep after it became known early this year that he had stage IV lung cancer.

His passing was met with words of respect from a bipartisan swath of the Jewish community.

Dole was the recipient of the Jewish Federations of North America’s 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award, recognized for his bipartisan work on the Americans with Disabilities Act during a Jewish Disability Advocacy Day. Although Dole was unable to attend the JDAD ceremony to receive his award in person, he wrote a letter thanking JFNA for the honor, saying that the act was a great example of what leaders from both sides working together can accomplish.

JFNA tweeted on Monday that it mourned the statesman’s passing.

The Anti-Defamation League also recalled Dole with admiration for the American leader.

“ADL mourns the passing of former Sen. Bob Dole, a valiant fighter for disability rights from his leadership in passing the Americans with Disabilities Act to his support for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. May his memory be a blessing,” the organization tweeted on Sunday.

“May Sen. Dole’s memory forever be a blessing,” the Republican Jewish Coalition also tweeted.

“Sadly, the passing of Bob Dole marks the passing of an era of political leadership in this country based on patriotism, love of country, honor, decency and a commitment to public service,” said RJC executive director Matt Brooks. “Bob Dole represented the best that this country has to offer—whether it was on the battlefield in World War II or serving the American people in Congress.

“He really was a man of principle; he was a man who stood up for what was right; and above all, he put country above partisanship,” continued Brooks. “That is one of the things that we sorely miss today. There are too many people putting partisanship over country; hopefully, Dole’s legacy will be an example going forward of what we should strive for.”

AIPAC tweeted that Dole was an American hero who gave his life to the nation: “Sen. Dole was an outspoken supporter of security assistance to Israel and was the lead sponsor of the Jerusalem Embassy Act.”

Mort Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America, told JNS that he worked with Dole to pass the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995, which recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and ordered the U.S. embassy to be moved there from Tel Aviv, which eventually occurred in May 2018 during the Trump administration.

At first, he said, few senators supported the bill.

He and former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) visited Dole, who at the time was running for president, to convince him to support the bill. Because of Dole’s agreement, more senators and Jewish organizations joined to support the measure.

“Although Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona deserves tremendous credit for the bill to move the embassy, it would never have happened without Robert Dole’s support and lobbying. Dole was the key to having made this happen. If Dole didn’t support it, we wouldn’t have this bill. So he deserves credit for it,” said Klein.

William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who worked for Dole in 1996, said he was saddened to hear of the news and that Dole was a “war hero whose passing marks the end of an era.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said he was saddened by Dole’s passing, calling him a war hero and true friend of Israel.

Received two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star

Robert Joseph Dole was born in Russell, Kansas, on July 22, 1923, the son of the owners of a small creamery. After graduating from high school, he went on to study at the University of Kansas, where he was recruited to play on the school’s basketball team. He was also a member of the school’s track and football teams.

His stint at the university was interrupted by World War II when he enlisted to serve in the U.S. Army Enlisted Reserve Corps in 1942.

He was seriously wounded in combat in Italy in 1945 when a German shell struck his upper back and right arm, shattering his collar bone and part of his spine. He was at first left for dead by fellow soldiers due to the extent of his injuries.

Paralyzed from the neck down, he was transported to a military hospital near Kansas, where he was expected to die of his injuries. He recovered with the help of a then-experimental drug and multiple surgeries but would forever have limited mobility in his right arm and numbness in his left arm. He was medically discharged from the Army in 1947, receiving two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star with a “V” for valor.

Dole then attended the University of Arizona and Washburn University where he completed his bachelor’s and law degrees.

After serving in the Kansas state legislature and as county attorney, Dole was elected to Congress in 1960 and was re-elected three more times.

In 1968, he defeated primary and general election opponents to win an open seat in the U.S. Senate, to which he was re-elected four times, serving as GOP leader for 11 years before resigning in 1996 to focus on a run for president.

He ran unsuccessfully as vice-presidential running mate to incumbent President Gerald Ford in 1974, and, after two unsuccessful attempts in 1984 and 1988, became the Republican presidential nominee in 1996. At 73, Dole was the last presidential nominee of either major party to have served in World War II.

Dole lost to incumbent Democratic President Bill Clinton, who captured 49.2 percent of the vote to Dole’s 40.7 percent and Independent candidate Ross Perot’s 8.4 percent.

After his election defeat, Dole spent part of his time as a lobbyist and was involved in a number of volunteer organizations. He was heavily involved in raising funds for the National World War II Memorial.

In the 2016 GOP primaries—after his first two choices of presidential candidates former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) dropped out of the race—Dole became the only former GOP presidential nominee to endorse then-candidate Donald Trump.

In January 2018, Dole was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony in the U.S Capitol.