Ron Dermer, Israeli ambassador to the United States, will be the keynote speaker March 25 at Churchill Fellows Weekend at Westminster College.
Dermer will speak on the theme of Winston Churchill and his relationship to Israel, said Tim Riley, director and chief curator of the National Churchill Museum, located at the college in Fulton.
"He is a student of Churchill," Riley said. "There is no better person to represent that theme than the ambassador."
Riley said he first met Dermer last August.
"He was in Missouri traveling ,and he gave us a call and said he wanted to come visit (the National Churchill Museum). He asked if we would stay open late and accommodate him, and of course we did."
Through continued communications, the college was able to secure Dermer as keynote speaker for the Churchill Fellow Weekend — an honor also granted by journalist Jon Meacham last year, as well as people such as former President Dwight Eisenhower, actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr., retail magnet J.C. Penney, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and others.
Riley said Churchill had a long-term relationship with Israel, and in the early 20th century, supported the establishment of a permanent home in Palestine for the Jewish people.
"Churchill traveled most famously in 1921 to Jerusalem, and was charged with gathering a commission to decide how to divide the Middle East in the post-World War I environment," Riley said. "He drew the lines establishing the modern state of Iraq and helped mold some of the geographical boundaries still found in the Middle East today."
In 1948, the country of Israel was first recognized by Missourian and former U.S. President Harry Truman as a sovereign state.
"We have two important figures here, Winston Churchill who had pro-Zionist (support) and Harry Truman," Riley said.
Dermer's lecture will be at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury. More details will soon be released, including names of others to be honored as Churchill Fellows.
"There also will be a celebratory Fellow Brunch, a ticketed event," Riley said.
A panel discussion, "Why is Churchill Relevant Today?" will be conducted at the brunch, he added.
"This will be the 49th recognition of Churchill Fellows," Riley said. "In 1969, the first Fellow was designated."
Dermer was born and raised in Miami Beach, Florida. His mother, Yaffa Rosenthal, was born in Palestine and moved to Florida with her parents shortly after Israel won independence. His father, Jay Dermer, was a trial lawyer from New York City who became mayor of Miami Beach in the late 1960s. His brother, David Dermer, also served as Miami Beach mayor.
Dermer went to a Jewish day school, and two weeks before his bar mitzvah, his father died of a heart attack. He earned a bachelor's degree in finance and management from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1993, and a degree in philosophy, politics and economics from Oxford University in 1996, after which he moved to Israel.
In 1997, Dermer began the process of becoming an Israeli citizen. He worked as a political consultant and a writer. In 2005, he was appointed economic envoy at the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. When he returned to Israel in 2008, Dermer became an advisor to Benjamin Netanyahu, who became prime minister in 2009. Dermer became ambassador to the United States in 2013.
He is married with five children and lives in Washington, D.C.
The Embassy of Israel to the United States in Washington, D.C., is Israel's largest agency in the world. The embassy works as a liaison between the two countries to strengthen ties and present the foreign policy positions of the Israeli government.
Other details of Churchill Fellows Weekend and the registration process for events and meals will be announced once a complete itinerary has been formulated.