WEST ORANGE, NJ — Michael Oren will return to West Orange on Tuesday, Sept. 4, to take the stage at Temple B’nai Shalom for his talk “Israel and American Jews: Common Destiny or Separate Paths?” The Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and West Orange native and will be speaking in his hometown about the relationship between Israel and the American Jewish community.
Raised in West Orange, Oren moved to Israel in 1979, and in 2009 became Israel’s ambassador to the United States. In 2015 he became a member of the Kulanu political party, and was elected as a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. For the last two years, Oren has served as deputy minister of Israel.
“I’ll be speaking about the close, complex and at times strained relationship between Israel and the American Jewish community,” Oren said in an email with the West Orange Chronicle on Aug. 25. “I hope that my audience will take away a more nuanced understanding of this relationship and of the Israeli perspective.”
Kulanu is a centrist party in Israel, and focuses on economic and cost of living issues. Oren said that he often explains Israel’s positions to other world leaders.
“As deputy minister, I interact with world leaders and with the international media, explaining Israel’s positions,” he said. “I also spearhead several projects, including gender equality, development of the Golan Heights and promoting Israel as a global hub for film production.”
Oren has been in Israel for decades, but he said that the transition when he first moved there wasn’t easy. He was involved in the youth programs at B’nai Shalom synagogue while growing up in West Orange, which was one of the driving forces in his decision to move across the world.
“I had a typical American upbringing in West Orange, including picnics in the reservation, senior proms and post-game pizzas at Starlight. I was very active in the B’nai Shalom youth movement, which had a major impact on my decision to move to Israel,” Oren said. “Still, it was not an easy transition, not the least because I volunteered as a paratrooper in the Israel Defense Forces and went to war. Since then, I have raised a family, pursued academic and public service careers, and built a home in Israel. The experience has been deeply fulfilling.”
Oren is also a historian, and has written several books about Middle Eastern history. “Power, Faith and Fantasy” is a history of American involvement in the Middle East, and “Six Days of War” is an account of the Six Day War in 1967 between Israel and the surrounding countries. In addition, Oren has also written two works of fiction: “Sand Devil,” stories set in the Negev Desert, and “Reunion,” a book based on his father’s stories from World War II.
Even with all of the writing and political work he does, Oren said that there has been one skill he has developed during the course of his career.
“The most important lesson I learned as ambassador was the importance of listening,” he said.
Oren is looking forward to returning to West Orange, especially since he knows that not much has changed since he was there last.
“West Orange will always be a special place for me, especially since my parents, Lester and Marilyn Bornstein, still live in the house in which they raised me,” he said. “Every street, every corner, has a memory, and almost all of them beautiful.”
B’nai Shalom is located at 300 Pleasant Valley Way in West Orange. The talk begins at 8 p.m., preceded by a student reception with Oren at 6:30 p.m. A special reception with Oren and for preferred seating is at 7 p.m. and general admission access to seating begins at 7:15 p.m. There will be a performance by the West Point Jewish Choir at 7:30 p.m. Admission is charged. For tickets and information, visit www.bnaishalom.net/events.php#oren or call 973-731-0160.