October 1, 2022
From his early days at Camp Ramah in the Poconos, to his time as a campus leader of the University of Michigan's Jewish community, to emerging as one of Israel’s foremost champions in the halls of Congress, American Jewish Committee’s new CEO Ted Deutch’s life is defined by his relentless advocacy and love for the Jewish people.
Here are six things to know about this tireless advocate.
- Jewish and proud from an early age
Raised the youngest of five in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Deutch was the grandson of Belarusian and Lithuanian Jewish immigrants. His late father Bernard was a World War II veteran who earned a Purple Heart fighting in the Battle of the Bulge and ran a local painting business. His late mother Jean served as office manager and comptroller for her husband’s business.
Ted took an early interest in both politics and Jewish advocacy. Ted would often engage in political debates with his parents, and from his father’s experience, he understood the importance of public service. Ted also credits his time at Camp Ramah, a Jewish summer camp in the Poconos, for giving him the courage and opportunity to speak out about challenges facing the Jewish people.
“My father wanted me to know that we are Jews, and we are Americans, and we should be proud of both and never take either for granted,” Ted said, reflecting on his father’s impact at AJC Global Forum 2022.
Ted attended the University of Michigan, where he met his wife Jill and served as a leader of the Jewish community and chairman of Michigan Hillel. He was awarded the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, the nation’s memorial to President Truman, for his commitment to public service. After graduating from Michigan Law School in 1990, he and Jill moved to Washington, D.C., where he practiced law. They later moved to Cleveland, Ohio, to be closer to Jill’s family.
He became active in Cleveland’s Jewish Federation, and after relocating to Boca Raton, Florida, in 1998, became involved in the South Palm Beach Federation. He joined the Jewish Federations of North America’s Young Leadership Cabinet and American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) New Leadership Network, all while building a successful commercial real estate practice.
Ted first ran for political office in 2006, when he won a seat in Florida’s State Senate. He was elected to Congress in a special election in early 2010 to replace retiring Congressman Robert Wexler.
- A family dedicated to the Jewish people
Like Ted, Jill has had a long career serving the Jewish community. Since 2008, she has been the Director of Development at the Hillel of Broward and Palm Beach, which serves students at five Florida colleges. She also has master’s degrees in social work and Judaic studies.
Jill has also held several volunteer leadership positions with the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County.
Ted and Jill have three children: 27-year-old twins Serena and Gabby, and 23-year-old Cole. Serena is the former director of admissions at the Jewish Community Day School of New Orleans; Gabby is the Washington correspondent for Jewish Insider; and Cole is a recent graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and a senior financial analyst at YieldX, a financial technology company.
- Bipartisan action to combat antisemitism
As partisanship has grown in Washington, Ted was part of a shrinking group of lawmakers who continued to work closely with colleagues on the other side of the aisle to support bipartisan legislation, especially when it came to confronting antisemitism.
In 2015, he helped establish the Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism, founded to ensure that Congress plays an integral role in condemning and fighting antisemitism in the United States and across the globe. The Task Force, which now counts some 175 members of Congress, began with AJC’s encouragement and engages with the Biden administration, foreign leaders, and civil society organizations to share best practices and collaborate on solutions to the challenge of antisemitism. Since its inception, AJC has worked closely with the Task Force over the years in helping to spearhead important legislation, statements, and events.
Ted also led bipartisan resolutions and initiatives to address antisemitism. Most recently in July 2022, he organized a bipartisan letter from 92 lawmakers to urge the Department of Homeland Security to address nationwide antisemitism.
As a co-founder of the Interparliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism, he focused on increasing awareness of, and developing responses to, growing online antisemitism. This group comprises bipartisan legislators and parliamentarians from Israel, the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
Former Florida Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen praised Ted’s bipartisan credentials, saying both Republicans and Democrats “will be thrilled to see Ted as the leader of AJC.”
“AJC is a well-respected institution, and Ted was made for this role. Ted fits in the mold of AJC. He is fair, even-handed, calm, thoughtful, and kind to everyone. He’s also a passionate and forceful leader on the most important issues.”
- A bold champion for Israel
As thousands of Hamas rockets rained down on the Jewish state in May 2021, Ted delivered a powerful message on the floor of the House of Representatives that went viral. He denounced several fellow Democrats who had accused Israel of apartheid and opposed giving the Jewish state the means to defend itself:
“I cannot allow one of my colleagues to stand on the floor of the House of Representatives and label the Jewish democratic State of Israel an apartheid state. I reject it!.... To falsely characterize the State of Israel is consistent with those who advocate the dismantling of the one Jewish state in the world, and when there is no place on the map for one Jewish state, that’s antisemitism and I reject that.”
Reflecting on this speech, Ted said that it is important to understand the threats Israel and the Jewish people face from the far right and far left, and the need to confront them.
“That requires boldly speaking out, standing up, and not backing down,” he said. “And in this case that meant that after one of my colleagues came to the House floor to attack Israel, label it an apartheid state in a completely over the top and unacceptable attack on our ally, it required a response.”
“There are moments where timing is everything. And in that moment if I didn’t do anything, then the last voice of the Democratic Party before we voted on Iron Dome funding would have been one that labeled Israel an apartheid state.”
Ted also authored legislation strengthening Israel’s security and advancing U.S.-Israel cooperation in energy, agriculture, technology, and trade. He fought against efforts to delegitimize Israel at the United Nations and championed human rights and protections for religious minorities.
Commenting on his selection as the next AJC CEO, Yair Lapid, then-Israeli foreign minister and now prime minister, noted his close personal friendship with Ted, saying that “his record in Congress advocating for a strong, secure Israel is well-known and I look forward to continuing to work with him to strengthen Israel's standing in the world.”
- A strong voice on the world stage
During his tenure as chair of the Middle East, North Africa, and Global Counterterrorism Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ted had also focused on a wide range of foreign policy issues, including fighting global antisemitism, championing democratic values and human rights, combating rogue states like Iran and North Korea, and supporting Ukraine as it defends itself from Russia. Ted was invited to deliver remarks at the first-ever United Nations General Assembly plenary to address concerns of a rise in antisemitic violence worldwide.
As Chairman, Ted also traveled around the world, developing strong ties with U.S. allies. He has led his colleagues on multiple international congressional delegations, including multiple trips to Israel, and represented the U.S. at key international fora like the Munich Security Conference and the Davos World Economic Council.
As a leader on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ted regularly engaged with world leaders, from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
Additionally, Ted helped pass federal legislation to crack down on companies that financially support Iran’s nuclear weapons program and to counter Iran’s dangerous activities around the world. This measure was modeled on one of his main initiatives as a state senator: a law that enabled Florida to divest over a billion dollars from the Iranian regime. It was the nation’s first such Iran divestment law.
Ted has also been outspoken on issues of global human rights, shedding light on the humanitarian crisis in Syria; advocating for human rights in Iran, including passing legislation condemning the persecution of the Baha’i by the Iranian regime; co-introducing legislation to protect human rights in Venezuela; and enforcing sanctions on the regime in North Korea for its human rights violations.
- A longtime partner of AJC
While serving as a leading pro-Israel Jewish congressman, Ted partnered with AJC on several important issues over the years, including holding membership in several key bipartisan caucuses and groups organized by AJC.
Ted was the founding co-chair of the Congressional Hellenic-Israel Alliance, which encourages U.S. support for the trilateral relationship of Greece, Cyprus, and Israel. The caucus was launched in February 2013 at a meeting of leaders from AJC and the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), along with Deutch and co-chair Representative Gus Bilirakis (R-FL).
Ted was also a member of the Congressional Caucus on Black-Jewish Relations, the Latino-Jewish Congressional Caucus, and AJC’s Transatlantic Friends of Israel inter-parliamentary group. Ted spoke with EU leaders about the threat of the Iranian nuclear program at a meeting hosted by AJC’s Transatlantic Institute in Brussels.
As a member of Congress, Ted frequently shared his analysis with AJC leaders and supporters, including as a regular guest on AJC’s People of the Pod podcast.