Here’s copy from yesterday’s press release from the American Jewish Committee regarding Gerald Ford’s death:
On this National Day of Mourning for President Gerald Ford, the American Jewish Committee remembers with deep respect and appreciation the 38th President of the United States. We recall his lifelong devotion to our nation, including his distinguished wartime record in the Pacific and his decades of devoted public service in Washington, as well as his active support for Jews in the Soviet Union and for Israel’s quest for peace and security.
“The Jackson-Vanik Amendment, signed into law by President Ford in January 1975, was one of the most important contributions America made to gaining the freedom of Soviet Jews, whose only ‘crime’ was their deep desire to emigrate to the Jewish homeland in Israel and to other democratic countries,” said AJC Executive Director David A. Harris. “By linking the granting of most-favored- nation trade status for Communist countries to their emigration policies, the United States sent a message that fundamental and internationally-recognized freedoms will not be compromised.”
“The Ford Presidency was a pivotal time for Soviet Jews,” said Harris, a longtime activist in the Soviet Jewry movement. “Under Ford’s leadership, the Helsinki Accords were adopted in August 1975. The Soviet Union was among the thirty-five signatories. This landmark agreement moved human rights to the forefront of the international agenda, emboldening Soviet Jews and others challenging communist oppression, and creating a framework for the scrutiny of the Soviet bloc’s commitment to the goals adopted at Helsinki.”
On the Middle East, President Ford continued the strong American tradition of bipartisan support Israel, declaring: “My commitment to the security and future of Israel is based upon basic morality as well as enlightened self- interest. Our role in supporting Israel honors our own heritage.” He encouraged the search for peace begun after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the surprise attack launched by Egypt and Syria against Israel. During his administration, an interim truce agreement was achieved between Egypt and Israel, which helped set the stage for further negotiations and the signing of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty in March 1979.
“Perhaps most significant about President Ford’s short tenure was the fact that he came to office as the first unelected president of the United States,” said Harris. “It was during a time of national division and soul-searching in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal and President Nixon’s resignation. President Ford’s lasting legacy will be that this man of decency, moderation and patriotism proved our nation’s democratic institutions to be secure and strong at a critical moment in America’s history.”