On April 7, 1997, Esther Levens and the Unity Coalition for Israel honored Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu under the banner, “Jerusalem Undivided,” in Washington DC at the J.W. Marriott Hotel. This was immediately prior to his meeting at the White House with President Bill Clinton. The event was Co-Chaired by Kay Arthur, co-CEO of Precept Ministries International. Around 4500 people were in attendance.
Orl Gill, Consul General, Israeli Consulate in Chicago, Illinois
Consul General Orli Gil arrived in Chicago to assume her post at the Consulate General of Israel to the Midwest in late July, 2008.
Avi Granot, Former Counselor for Church Affairs, Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C.
Israeli Embassy Official, Avi Granot, beginning in 1992, hosted all of the first Unity Coalition for Israel meetings gathering Jews and Christians together in the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC. UCI was fully supported by the Israeli Embassy and Counselor Granot, the first director of Israeli outreach to the Christian community. It was in his office and in the DC Embassy conference room that Voices United for Israel (UCI) was first established in Washington DC in 1991.
Avi Granot currently serves as the Israeli Ambassador to Finland.
Governor Sam Brownback
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback issued a proclamation honoring the late Vrem Levens and his wife, Esther Levens, founder and president of the Unity Coalition for Israel (UCI) at a special commemorative event held at the Elephant Club in Kansas City on June 21, 2011.
Hindsight can be a look at the past that identifies historical markers that were not clear when they were taking place.
Let me explain. While on vacation I decided it would be a good time to go through my files and do some much needed sorting out. Among the mountain of stuff I found was a great deal of material on the first Unity Conferences in the 90’s and the furor they raised with some of our friends who wanted to squash the events and kill the relationship between Jews and Zionist Christians.
All of the correspondence with the Embassy, Avi Granot (see above), Matt Brooks, and others reminded me of just how painful things became. But what I discovered, which is information only available through hindsight, was that those conferences, and the struggles you and our friends endured, where actually a turning point in relationships with the Israeli government and key people in the American Jewish community.
I remember something our late friend Yehuda Levy told me years later. “Elwood, in those first few meetings we met together with suspicion. Today we sit together like a family.” Thus the theme of the 95′ event, Breaking Barriers & Building Bridges, actually said much more than we realized at the time.
The fight was worth it Esther. So why don’t you give yourself a well earned pat on the back.
Ever your friend, Elwood McQuaid – CEO of Friends of Israel (NJ)
Longtime supporter of Israel, author and investigative reporter, Erick Stakelbeck, speaks to the centrality of the united, Israeli capital, Jerusalem, and moving the US Embassy to that capital. He addresses Esther and the Unity Coalition for Israel during an International Israel Allies Foundation Prayer Breakfast and Press Conference on Jerusalem Day, June 1, 2011.
Executive Director of Friends of Israel – foi.org, Bill is a longtime friend of Esther Levens and Unity Coalition for Israel supporter. In this video he expresses his deep connection with the eternal capital of Israel, Jerusalem, and the need for it to remain under Israeli sovereignty – so it can continue to be a holy city open to all. He was recorded on June 1, 2011, at the International Israel Allies Caucus Foundation Jerusalem Day Prayer Breakfast and Press Conference. Bill Sutter stands with UCI and the many Representatives who have signed onto H.R. 1006 “To recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, to relocate to Jerusalem the United States Embassy in Israel, and for other purposes.”
Levens an Example for Jewish Leaders – “Powerhouse” in U.S.-Israel Relations
by John Altevogt, Guest Columnist, Metro Voice Editorial – March 2007
By the time you read this The Gathering V, an annual event designed to unite evangelical Christians and Jews in an effort to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, will have occurred. If things go as they usually do, the one international powerhouse in the room, the one person who was 10 years ahead of the current effort, as it slowly begins to retrace her steps, will be virtually ignored. Her name is Esther Levens.
Strangers will ignore her simply because in appearance she would probably be the last one in the room that one would suspect of having any great influence. For many leaders of the local Jewish community she is often explicitly ignored because she has long since thrown the doors to such collaboration open far wider than they are comfortable with.
For Esther, it’s simply a family tradition. Bob Dole was fond of touting the importance of the values he learned in Russell, Kansas as providing the impetus for his political success, but insiders are aware that his success was also built on the support of Vrem Levens, Esther’s deceased husband. Vrem was an activist whose main love was the creation and then the defense of Israel.
Unlike many in the Jewish community who feared being too vocal in their support of Israel for fear of being seen as having divided loyalties, Vrem Levens was a highly motivated pragmatist. His support was open and went far beyond simply raising money, or joining local Jewish groups. Indeed, more than once, thinking and acting outside the box in support of the defense of Israel got him in a bit of trouble. When Vrem fell ill Esther cared for him and then also her mother until she too passed.
Esther picked up where her husband left off and started to think about how she could help to keep Israel safe and secure. Her original intent was to build a discussion group, a salon if you will, of her neighbors and friends with the modest goal of raising money for Israel and informing themselves about the issues involved in Mideast politics while giving impetus to the formation of other chapters elsewhere.
Two things happened that led her to follow in her husband’s footsteps outside the box of orthodox thinking. First, other local Jewish groups charged with raising money for the defense of Israel were not crazy about dividing up the pie with someone new. Secondly, the folks who seemed to share Esther’s passion for Israel weren’t her neighbors from the mainline denominations, they were evangelical conservatives, many of them just beginning to become involved in politics themselves.
In order to avoid the turf wars at the local level, Esther decided to create a national group, and create it she did. Following the family tradition of thinking outside the box, 15 years ago Esther created the Unity Coalition for Israel, originally convened by the found. While other Jewish groups shunned Israel’s evangelical supporters in favor of trying to align themselves with leftist groups for whom they had a greater affinity, Esther opened her door and her heart to these enthusiastic evangelicals and, as they say, the rest is history.
With her new coalition, Esther Levens demonstrated time and time again that she could rally significant public support – on a national level – to oppose the continual demands that Israel give up its territory in exchange for the false hope of the ever-present promise that “peace is at hand” or that Israel could have “peace in our time.” Today, she is a phone call away from Israel’s Prime Minister.
May 20 & 21 she will join Kay Arthur and Janet Parshall at a women’s conference in Jerusalem sponsored by the Women’s Council for the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus. She is the official liaison between Israel and the United States for the conference – an international powerhouse, indeed.
While I certainly join the prayers of Gathering V and wish it great success it’s hard to be too excited knowing how far they are behind Esther Levens and her Unity Coalition for Israel. For the best news on the Mideast, contact UnityCoalitionforIsrael.org http://www.israelunitycoalition.org/ and sign up for Esther’s daily updates.
Blessings to you Esther, you’re one of my heroes.
Prof. Livia Bitton-Jackson
An author and a Holocaust survivor. Livia Bitton-Jackson was born Elli L. Friedmann in Samorin in Czechoslovakia, She was 13 years old when she, her mother, father, aunt and brother Bubi, were taken to Ghetto Nagymagyar. Eventually, they were transported to Auschwitz, the largest German concentration camp, where her brother and aunt were separated from Livia and her mother. Her aunt perished but her brother survived. She, her mother and brother were liberated in 1945. Bitton-Jackson came to the U.S. on a refugee boat in 1951 to join Bubi, who was studying in New York. She then studied at New York University, from which she received a Ph.D. in Hebrew Culture and Jewish History. She also wrote her 1997 memoir I Have Lived a Thousand Years.
A Letter of Appreciation To Mrs. Esther Levens, CEO of Unity Coalition for Israel (UCI)
published August 15, 2014 in The Jewish Press:
Mrs. Esther Levens,
We, the members of the Zionist Women’s Organization in Israel, wish to salute you and thank you for the remarkable work you have been doing for our country.
As founder of UCI in 1991 and now its Chief Executive Officer, you representing millions of Jews and Christians, have provided material information not only on Israel but also on the history and culture of the twenty-two Arab nations that surround it.
You have conducted a wide-educational outreach to all segments of American society by bringing together secular and religious media with those on college campuses, with American government representatives and Israeli Knesset Members.
You coordinated seven major conferences in Washington, introducing experts on the true picture of Israel and the Middle East. You hosted the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, on two occasions at festive breakfasts that attracted thousands of people. The UCI co-sponsored the First Jerusalem Summit, a newly formed international think-tank. Simultaneously, you have sponsored numerous press conferences on Capitol Hill, at the National Press Club, and at the National Religious Broadcasters annual conventions. Amazing as all this seems, you also co-sponsored the annual Embassy of Israel Solidarity Seminar in Washington, DC, and the annual pro-Israel KC Gathering.
Aware of your amazing competence and knowledge, three U.S. presidents appointed you to serve on three U.S. Presidential Advisory Councils: the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, the National Advisory Council on Vocational Education and the National Advisory Committee on Education of Handicapped Children.
To say that you, Mrs. Esther Levens, are a true Eishet Chayil, a Woman of Valor, is an understatement. In addition to the above-mentioned activities, you have also served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ), of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), of the National Council of Jewish Women and of the Republican Jewish Coalition!
You once said that you loved and supported Israel long before “the state was even a state.” You said you started believing in the importance of a Jewish state when you were a young woman in Kansas City working for United Jewish Social Services.
“I realized early on how really vulnerable Jews felt around the world,” you said.
As a graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, you worked with the first wave of European refugees here following the Holocaust. You met them at the railroad station and were charged with finding them housing and kosher food.
The work you did with survivors was instrumental in arranging some of the first Yom Ha’Shoah remembrance services in the state of Kansas, leading to your appointment by President George W. Bush to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council.
You and your late husband, Vrem, worked together for a variety of causes, and when he passed away in 1983, his causes became yours.
You had worked as a professional for Israel Bonds and said that this experience led to your forming Voices United for Israel, the forerunner of the remarkable United Coalition for Israel. Today, the UCI has convened an alliance of Christian and Jewish organizations to actively work together to generate support for Israel – more than 200 autonomous partner organizations, representing more than 40 million people, making it the largest network of pro-Israel groups in the world!
Our dear superwoman of valor! How can we thank you?