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JNS quoted B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin in its remembrance of Morris Amitay, a tireless advocate for Israel and Soviet Jewry, and was at the forefront of Jewish American leadership.

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Morris “Morrie” Amitay, who transformed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) into a powerful voice in Washington, D.C., and who lobbied President Gerald Ford to accept more Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union, died on Feb. 10 at his home in Rockville, Md. He was 86 years old.

His son, Stephen (“Steve”) Amitay, told JNS that his father had battled cancer for 16 years.

“He was able to get things done,” Steve said of his father, who took over as executive director of AIPAC in 1974 after Isaiah Kenen had been at the helm since founding the group in 1951. Amitay made AIPAC a more effective organization, according to his son.

“Dad sharpened AIPAC’s focus to change it from a think tank, at first, into an effective lobbying organization,” said the younger Amitay.

“And whether you were a congressman, a senator or someone who worked at the office, it always stuck with me how my dad treated everyone with respect,” Steve Amitay told JNS. “No matter who you were, he would always be sure to treat people with kindness and respect. That, I believe, is a major reason why he developed such an incredible number of friendships here in the U.S. and in Israel.”


‘A passionate and effective supporter’

Amitay led AIPAC at an important time and led its organizational growth and development, AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittmann told JNS. “Throughout his career, Morrie developed deep relationships on Capitol Hill that helped strengthen the bonds between the Jewish state and America,” he said.

Daniel Mariaschin, CEO of B’nai B’rith International, told JNS that Amitay was at the forefront of Jewish American leadership due to his “incisive knowledge” of the legislative and executive branches,” and his “persuasive manner.”

“His wise counsel and his forthright defense of Israel will certainly leave a void in the community,” said Mariaschin.

When he was vice chairman of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA), Amitay “was a very smart and influential voice on Israel in the American political community spanning many decades,” Michael Makovsky, president and CEO of JINSA (The Jewish Institute for National Security of America), told JNS. “He cared a great deal about JINSA, and our mission of a robust U.S. national security and a strong U.S.-Israel security relationship.”

Former U.S. Connecticut senator and vice-presidential nominee Joe Lieberman told JNS that Amitay was “a dear friend and valued counselor during my 24 years in the Senate.”

“He was a passionate and effective supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship and of pro-Israel members of Congress,” said Lieberman. “In addition to all of that, Morrie had a great sense of humor and an infectious smile. His life was full of great accomplishments and many mitzvot.”

Amitay is survived by children Michael (Mayumi), Stephen (Sharlene), Cheryl (Gian), and Rae; and grandchildren Ethan, Olivia, Kyle, Matt and Nicole. He is survived by two former wives, Sybil Amitay and Martha Amitay, and was predeceased by his sister, Frances Abramson.