Israeli Ambassador to Australia Yuval Rotem likes to think outside the box. While serving as Israeli Consul General in Los Angeles, he initiated outreach to the region’s Latino and Christian communities, including the Mormon Church. When he hired me as his press attaché, Yuval told me to behave myself or he’d have to report me to Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, with whom he met every year. During his diplomatic service in Los Angeles, three Mormons were hired as consulate employees or interns, a Mormon conducted the bilingual Yom Hazikaron memorial service for the Israeli community at Yuval’s request, and a Mormon emceed LA’s Israel Festival for the first time. A timely e-mail I received this week shows that the ambassador’s admiration for Mormons (which is certainly mutual) has led to the hiring of more Latter-day Saints to serve on his staff, this time as representatives of Israel in Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and Fiji.
Greg Scott and his Australian wife, Tara, were living in Hawaii when she expressed her desire to move back to her homeland. They heard through the Mormon grapevine of an opening at the Israeli Embassy, and Ambassador Rotem and Greg hit it off immediately during the interview. Yuval hired Greg to work as his chief of staff and asked Tara to serve as his personal assistant. Having a non-Israeli husband and wife working in the same embassy had apparently never been done before, but anyone who knows Yuval is not surprised that he was able to make it happen.
For Israel’s 60th anniversary celebration, the ambassador asked Tara to be the face of the embassy and emcee a high-profile event at Parliament House with the Prime Minister, members of Parliament, and leaders from the Jewish communities in Australia. Last year Greg accompanied Yuval to Israel and assisted him in hosting an official Australian delegation headed by current Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Greg’s impression of the visit? “I sat in on meetings with President Shimon Peres, Tzipi Livni, and other cabinet ministers. It was an unbelievable experience and Israel was simply a beautiful place to visit.” In keeping with Mormon custom, Tara has left the embassy in order to raise her new baby. Greg continues to serve the Jewish state proudly, and Mormons continue to be proud of him and Tara for representing us with distinction.
In Los Angeles alone, I know of Mormons who are working or have worked for the Israeli Consulate General, ARMDI, ORT, a leading Reform synagogue, The Jewish Federation, and an ultra-Orthodox school. There are undoubtedly more. Clearly, if Mormons are interested in reaching out to other faiths in order to build relationships of trust, the Jewish community reaches back in a big way, be it in California or Canberra.