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Whitmer’s words

Mich. Gov. Whitmer highlights ties with Israel after address to Jewish leaders

Speaking to a group of young Jewish Federation leaders, Whitmer praised the state’s “incredible, strong Jewish community”

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivers remarks at the SelectUSA Investment Summit on May 04, 2023 in National Harbor, Md.

Following an address to a Jewish leadership gathering in Detroit on Monday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer touted her connection to the state’s Jewish community and the ties she has built with Israel. 

“I’m proud to have had a wonderful relationship with so many folks in the Jewish community here in Michigan,” Whitmer, a Democrat, told Jewish Insider in an interview after her speech to the Jewish Federations of North America’s Young Leadership Cabinet, which was holding a retreat in Detroit. 

The state’s budget, which Whitmer recently signed, includes a $15 million grant given to the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit for security. 

“I’m so grateful to build up a wonderful group of people that give me counsel and advocate for the community,” Whitmer said. “That’s why we got things done in this budget, like supporting the Jewish social services, as well as heightened security for members of the Jewish community.”

She also promoted the state’s “unique and very important relationship” with Israel, noting that her first trip as governor, in 2019, was to Israel, with a group led by the Detroit federation. 

“I’m so grateful that I had the chance to sign a memorandum of understanding when I was in Israel,” Whitmer said of an agreement she signed alongside the CEO of Start-Up Nation Central, an Israeli NGO that promotes Israel’s tech ecosystem. “There’s so much collaboration happening, and innovation.”

The trip sparked criticism among members of the state’s large Arab community, with some activists who had supported Whitmer in 2018 expressing shock that she would travel to Israel so soon after being elected. Asked how she balances the sometimes-conflicting priorities of her constituents, she said that “what happens in Michigan is really a wonderful example for the world.”

“We have a robust Muslim community that lives right next to a robust Jewish community and makes Michigan a stronger, more inclusive, better place for it,” she said. 

Whitmer’s address to the gathering highlighted the history of Michigan’s Jewish community, going back to the 18th century and culminating with a mention of state Attorney General Dana Nessel, also a Democrat. 

“We have an incredible, strong Jewish community,” Whitmer said, according to a copy of her speech obtained by JI. “As we see a rise in antisemitism nationally and across Michigan, we must continue to fight back.” 

The governor, who won reelection to a second term in 2022, has been frequently mentioned as a possible future Democratic presidential candidate. She brushes off the idea when speaking publicly. “I am not sitting in any room thinking about running for President,” she told The New Yorker recently, “and anytime that comes up it’s a distraction.”

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