Boca Raton, Jewish community remember Shimon Peres

Former Israeli president visited Boca in 2003
Posted at 6:48 PM, Sep 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-28 18:48:55-04

One of Israel's founding fathers, Shimon Peres, is dead at the age of 93. He died last night at a medical center outside Tel Aviv.

Peres was the protege of Israel's founding father. He served as Israel's prime minister and was president from 2007 to 2014. Afterwards, he remained involved in working for Middle East peace. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in bringing about the Oslo Accords.

South Florida’s strong ties to Israel make Peres’s death feel deeper.

Tom Madden still keeps a picture in his office.  

“I’m on the right,” he said pointing to a picture of him with Peres and Carl DeSantis at an event in Boca Raton.

As the head of TransMedia Group, Madden coordinated the 2003 visit.

“You know this is a strong man, and yet a gentle man,” Madden recalled. “You could see both the strength and the softness, the desire for peace.”

Peres held nearly every position in the Israeli government. Throughout it all, peace was his end goal. A goal the people he met in Boca Raton said we now need to carry out. 

“He was a light for others and we ought to strive for the ideals he laid out,” explained Matt Levin, the president of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County.

Levin heard Peres lay out his ideals several times from auditoriums to intimate meetings. Each time the former president’s words captured Levin. 

“When he told the story of the modern Jewish people, it had this heavy feeling of being the truth teller; that he was the narrator,” Levin said.

He wants Peres’s voice to echo through the federation campus. 

“He was a funny, charming, old world individual,” Levin said.

Many people feel like Peres’s death is like losing a piece of history. His name was brought up by a group celebrating history.

Today, organizers opened the South Florida Holocaust Museum in Dania Beach.
Julius Eisenstein was one of the speakers at the event. When he escaped a concentration camp in Germany, the Jewish people didn't have a country to call their own.

“The day Israel was announced as a country was the biggest day in my life,” Eisenstein said.

Peres was a leader in Israel from the beginning, helping it become its own country.
“One of the things Shimon Peres said was we can't allow memory to eclipse hope,” said Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin. He explained that means keeping Peres’s values alive.

Organizers behind the museum said it can help Peres's message reach well beyond Israel's borders. 

“Across religions, across age, across the spectrum of people,” said Rita Hofrichter, a Holocaust survivor and board member for the museum.

President Barack Obama plans on attending Peres’s funeral.