Having come to America as a teenager fleeing Nazi Germany, Henry Kissinger returned during World War II with the U.S. Army and was deeply moved after playing a role in liberating a concentration camp. Yet he has had little connection with Jewish life in his long career since then. Jeremy Rosen was thus surprised by what he found in the controversial former secretary of state’s most recent book:
At the age of ninety-nine, [Kissinger] has just published a new book, Leadership: Six Studies in World Leadership, describing the careers of leaders he admired—Konrad Adenauer of Germany, Charles De Gaulle of France, Richard Nixon, Anwar Sadat of Egypt, Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, and Margaret Thatcher of the UK. Significantly, he points out that they were all deeply religious, with the possible exception of Lee Kuan Yew. . . . He laments the erosion of moral purpose and the religious belief that often underpinned Western societies, and looks aghast at these divisive destructive features of American politics today.
Although some Jews like to claim him as one of ours, his whole career seems to have been an escape from everything Jewish.
The Nixon tapes have recorded him remaining silent as his [boss] excoriates Jews in general. When he returned from the war in Europe, he told his father, “Certain ties bound in convention mean nothing to me. I have come to judge men on their merits.” He told Golda Meir that he was an American first, a Nixonite second, and a Jew last. She replied that in Israel, they read from right to left! . . . In recent years, [however], he has been seen in Orthodox synagogues on the High Holy Days.