“I thought we were done with this,” said Aryeh Azriel, the rabbi at Temple Israel in Omaha, Neb., where Hagel has been a longtime regular presence, in an interview Friday with The Huffington Post. “I though we were done already with the [childishness] of being Jewish where everyone who says something critical about Israel needs to be labeled an anti-Semite. I find this extremely stupid, and definitely not helpful.”
Azriel said that in numerous one-on-one meetings with Hagel over the years, as well as several appearances by the senator before Azriel’s congregation, he has emerged with a similar sense of Hagel’s personal attachment and support for Israel.
“We developed a very close relationship,” Azriel said. “I cannot tell you how many times we spent talking, with him wanting to know about my childhood in Israel, what it was like having to go to the basement in apartment building I lived with my parents to hide from bombings. He was deeply interested in my personal experiences.”