Sen. John McCain, who made human rights and Israel centerpieces of his advocacy for a robust U.S. influence across the planet, died on Saturday.
He was with his family at the family ranch in Sedona, Arizona when he passed. “With the Senator when he passed were his wife Cindy and their family,” a statement from his office said. “At his death, he had served the United States of America faithfully for sixty years.”
The relationship that was perhaps most emblematic of his dedication to national security and to bipartisanship was his close friendship with Joseph Lieberman, the Orthodox Jewish senator from Connecticut.
The very same qualities that perhaps cost McCain the presidency helped make him a hero of the Jewish and pro-Israel communities: The robust interventionism that he insistently espoused, even as the chaos engendered by the war he championed in Iraq turned Americans off foreign adventures, included a fierce commitment to standing by Israel.
David Harris, CEO of the American Jewish Committee, said in a statement: “A passionate advocate for American global leadership, Senator McCain rightly bemoaned those who favored a U.S. pullback from world affairs.”
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee called McCain “an extraordinarily courageous defender of liberty, with its statement saying: “Throughout his congressional career Senator McCain stood with Israel because throughout his life he stood up for America’s allies and our shared democratic values.”
And McCain’s willingness to reach across the aisle even to liberal Democrats, which likely kept some conservatives away from the polls, extended to the Jewish community, where he worked with human rights activists.
“He was a tireless champion of the issues and principles that he held dear, from reforming the broken campaign finance system, to the effort to bar the use of torture by US authorities, to his pivotal vote just last year to save the Affordable Care Act,” said Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, who directs the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center. “On those issues and others including combating climate change and strengthening US-Israel relations, we were honored to work with him. And when we engaged him around areas of disagreement, Sen. McCain was always honest and straightforward.”
In its statement mourning McCain, the Jewish Democratic Council of America noted that he “rose above politics and represented his values.”