Commemorating Israel’s 75th anniversary, lawmakers seek to honor Golda Meir

Proceeds from the sale of a coin would benefit a nonprofit hospital in Israel

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Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir shown during an interview marking Israel's 25th anniversary, says the country's greatest achievement has been its mere survival.

A new House bill aimed at honoring Israel’s upcoming 75th anniversary would create a run of commemorative coins featuring former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.

The legislation is set to be introduced on Friday by Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Andrew Garbarino (R-NY), ahead of Israeli Independence Day, which begins the evening of April 25. Meir was Israel’s fourth prime minister, and the first woman to lead the Jewish state; born in Ukraine, she spent some of her childhood and young adulthood in Milwaukee, becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen. She died in 1978 in Jerusalem at age 80.

“Golda Meir’s story is a testament to the progress of the Jewish people, and that of Jewish women in particular,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement. “As a founder of the State of Israel, she modeled leadership for future generations and was fundamental in strengthening the United States-Israel partnership. I’m proud to sponsor this legislation to cement her place in history.”

Garbarino said that the coin would be a “fitting commemoration of the critical relationship between the United States and our friend and ally, Israel.”

“Prime Minister Golda Meir was a trailblazer and remarkable world leader who is deserving of this recognition and more. Under her leadership, Israel became the free, democratic nation it is today,” he continued.

The proceeds from selling the proposed coins would benefit the nonprofit Kiryat Sanz Laniado Hospital in Netanya, Israel. While considered legal tender with set face values, commemorative coins are sold at a surcharge, with proceeds allocated to charities. Commemorative coin legislation must receive support from two-thirds of a chamber of Congress before it can be voted on.

Since 1982, when the practice of minting commemorative coins was reinstated, no coin has been commissioned to honor a foreign leader — although a 1893 coin honored Spanish Queen Isabella of Castille and a 1992 coin honored Christopher Columbus. More recent coins have honored a range of causes and individuals such as breast cancer awareness, Negro leagues baseball, Mark Twain and astronaut Christa McAuliffe.

Bobby Rechnitz, a philanthropist, real estate developer and political activist, chairs the Golda Meir Commemorative Coin Committee, which advocates for the legislation. In 2014, Rechnitz was involved in a successful effort to award a congressional gold medal — a separate honor — to Israeli President Shimon Peres. 

“Golda Meir personified the Israel-American relationship. Raised in Milwaukee, she chose her own path to the Holyland and became one of the world’s first female leaders. A symbol of unity that embodied our shared values. There can be no better bipartisan gesture to mark the Jewish State’s 75th anniversary than minting a coin in honour of Israel’s fourth prime minister,” Rechnitz said. “This initiative will enable lawmakers old and new to affirm their support for the special bond between our great nations.”

The initiative is being supported by lobbyist Ezra Friedlander’s Project Legacy nonprofit.

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