Published originally in Haaretz.

American and Israeli officials, Jewish organizations and pro-Israel groups mourned the loss of Madeleine Albright, praising the late secretary of state as a champion of democracy and a trailblazer for women and immigrants in the fields of diplomacy and national security.

Pro-Israel lobby AIPAC noted she “worked to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship”, while J Street praised her promoting of “lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace via a two-state solution, and remained a champion for diplomatic progress in the region throughout her life.”

The Jewish Democratic Council of America and the National Council of Jewish Women also lauded her for paving the way for a new generation of women in diplomacy and national security and expressed honor for counting her as part of their community.

In Israel, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and President Isaac Herzog each described her as a groundbreaking champion of democracy with whom they valued their own personal experiences. Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, meanwhile, mourned her as “a smart, wise, astute American patriot who embraced her Jewish roots late in her life. She navigated the troubled waters of global diplomacy, but always had a soft and warm spot for Israel.”

The American Jewish Congress described her as “a staunch advocate for peace and a lifelong ally of the Jewish Community” who “worked diligently to advocate for Jewish interests, defended Israel, safeguarded the rights of women, and ensured democratic principles were maintained around the world.”

Top Middle East experts in the U.S. also expressed their admiration for Albright. “Other than James Baker, she was the toughest secretary of state I worked for. And the only one I had the opportunity to dance with,” said Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who spent decades advising numerous secretaries of state on the Middle East.

“The shadow of Munich and her experience as an immigrant created a deep appreciation for democracy and love of America. One of the things she said she loved most was presiding over granting new immigrants their naturalization certificates. She was truly one of a kind. And I will miss her greatly,” he added.

Tamara Coffman Wittes, the Biden administration’s current nominee for USAID’s assistant administrator for the Middle East and a leading Middle East expert in Washington, noted Albright’s impact on women in the foreign policy space, saying: “The world has lost a champion for democracy. America has lost one of its greatest (as she always said, grateful) patriots. Women have lost a trailblazer and role model”

Born Marie Jana Korbelova in Prague in 1937, Albright’s family fled in 1939 to London when Nazi Germany occupied Czechoslovakia. She attended school in Switzerland at age 10 and adopted the name Madeleine. She was raised a Roman Catholic, but after she became secretary of state, the Washington Post dug up documentation showing that her family was Jewish and relatives, including three grandparents, died in the Holocaust. Her parents likely converted to Catholicism from Judaism to avoid persecution as Nazism gained strength in Europe, the paper reported.

In a 2014 interview with Haaretz, she expressed disappointment with Barak for failing to advance with a peace process, saying he “turned out to be bold but very difficult in terms of how he negotiated. When we were doing the Syria track in Shepherds town, he had promised us that he would take a certain set of steps. Then he gets in and says, ‘I’m not going to do them,’ even though he had been the one who wanted us there. It was like dealing with — I don’t want to be patronizing, but — with children.” She also noted that Israel’s peace process with the Palestinian leadership was lost with Rabin’s assassination in 1995, an event she dubbed “one of the great historical, political tragedies of all time.”

© 2020 American Jewish Congress.