Michael Oren, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Visits West Orange High School

Ambassador Michael Oren Credits: Cynthia Cumming
Principal Hayden Moore welcomes the audience. Credits: Cynthia Cumming
Interim Superintendent James O'Neill introduces Ambassador Oren. Credits: Cynthia Cumming
Jerry Guarino, Robin Guarino, Megan Brill, Michelle Casalino. Credits: Cynthia Cumming
The Bornsteins, parents of Ambassador Oren, Jerry Tarnoff, Laura Lab, Paul Petigrow. Credits: Cynthia Cumming
Ambassador Oren's Aide Aviv Sarel and the Ambassador's wife, Sally Oren. Credits: Cynthia Cumming

WEST ORANGE, NJ – The Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, addressed Juniors and Seniors at West Orange High School this morning and engaged them in a lively question and answer period.   The Ambassador, in the metropolitan area for meetings, had come to West Orange to visit his parents and graciously agreed to arrange a visit to the High School.  Oren grew up in West Orange, attended Pleasantdale Elementary School, Abraham Lincoln Junior High and Mountain High School, graduating in 1973. (Lincoln Junior High was actually the front of what is now West Orange High School, and Mountain High School was the back. Seton Hall Prep was the original West Orange High School.)

Michael Oren, in addition to his position as Israeli Ambassador to the United States, is also a scholar with two Doctorates, a writer, a former member of the Israeli army, and an educator.

Board President Michelle Casalino, Vice-President Megan Brill, Board Member Laura Lab, former board member Paul Petigrow, former Superintendent Jerry Tarnoff, Councilman Jerry Guarino and his wife, and Ambassador Oren’s wife, parents, and aide were also in attendance.  After a welcome from Principal Hayden Moore and an introduction by Interim Superintendent James O’Neill, the Ambassador stepped to the microphone. Ambassador Oren began with a story of how, as a senior at Mountain High School, he starred in “Man of La Mancha,” and sang “The Impossible Dream.” His own ‘impossible dream’ began at the age of 15 when he visited Washington, DC, and met then Israeli Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin (Rabin was assassinated in 1995).

Sign Up for E-News

The second life changing event he described was the bombing of the Jewish Center of West Orange (now B’Nai Shalom) by the Klu Klux Klan in March of 1972.  He said he would never forget the image of a rabbi, priest, and Protestant minister walking hand in hand along Pleasant Valley Way and singing “We Shall Overcome.”

He saved his money to travel to Israel and live on a Kibbutz, where he worked as “a cowboy on the Golan Heights.” He served as a paratrooper in the Israeli army, continued his education and became an educator himself, until he was called to be the Israeli Ambassador four years ago. 

A series of questions and answers then followed with the students.

In response to a question regarding the relationship between Israel and the United States, Oren said that Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon were in the throes of revolution and that there were dangers in the Middle East.  He also said that despite some disagreements, that the United States and Israel remain in an historical alliance and that “not everything you read in the paper is true.” He told the audience that President Obama will be making his first trip to Israel next month as President, and though different administrations have had different impacts on the alliance, that there has always been “unbreakable support” for Israel.  He said that the United States and Israel were committed to direct negotiation between Israel and Palestine; that there should be no nuclear weapons in Iran; and the issue of the large chemical weapons arsenal in Syria needed to be addressed. 

When asked whether his personal opinion ever affected his position as Ambassador, Oren explained that he is a ‘soldier’ and his ‘shirt is his uniform.’ He represents the wishes of the Israeli government.  He went on to explain that although allowed dual citizenship in Israel, when he became Ambassador he had to renounce his American citizenship.  Yet, he acknowledged, he will still always be an American as well as an Israeli.  He tells his staff that to understand Americans, they need to understand football and baseball.  He also said that American Ambassadors (45-65 appointed by the President), when appointed, get six weeks of protocol and cultural training.  There are 4-5 appointees in the Israeli government, and they get no training, as he laughingly said that on his first day as Ambassor he walked into the embassy and was promptly arrested.

In response to a question regarding the threat of Hezbollah (a Shi'a Islamic militant group and political party based in Lebanon), Oren described the situation was a threat, saying Hezbollah had 70,000 rockets.  Despite a military budget of 6.5% that provided for anti ballistic missiles (Iron Dome) that can destroy 85 percent of the rockets, 15 percent still remain a danger to Israel.

In summing up his relationship with other mid-east Ambassadors, Oren smiled and said, “There are three kinds of relationships…Ambassadors that have lunch in public with me, Ambassadors that have lunch in private with me, and Ambassadors that don’t have lunch with me at all, though the latter are in the minority."

The Assembly concluded at 11:00 am.




TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

West Orange

James Caldwell High School Locks Down Following Threatening Message

February 24, 2018

WEST CALDWELL, NJ — Police confirmed that James Caldwell High School was under lockdown on Saturday afternoon during an all-day “Music Marathon” event after concern was raised about a threatening post. The West Caldwell Police Department is currently handling the investigation.

"West Caldwell Police was notified of a potential threat at the high school," said ...

Upcoming Events


Sun, February 25, 10:00 AM

West Orange High School (Tarnoff Cafeteria), West Orange

44th Annual Orange West Orange UNICO Sports ...

Arts & Entertainment Education


Sun, February 25, 12:00 PM

AMC Essex Green, West Orange

The 2018 West Orange Classic Film Festival

Arts & Entertainment

Celebrate Your Health this Nutrition Month

February 21, 2018

Dear Editor,

This year, we learned that the number of Americans at risk for heart attack and stroke just got a lot higher.  An estimated 103 million adults have high blood pressure, according to new statistics from the American Heart Association, and about 39.7 percent of Americans have high cholesterol.  With March being National Nutrition Month, it’s a great time to ...

Free Cardiac and Concussion Screenings for Young Athletes

February 22, 2018

WEST ORANGE, NJ — The Matthew J. Morahan III Health Assessment Center for Athletes (MJM) at RWJBarnabas Health will provide free cardiac and concussion baseline screenings to young athletes on Saturday, March 3, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at South Mountain Recreation Complex, Codey Arena, 560 Northfield Avenue, West Orange, NJ.

When preliminary testing to identify serious cardiac ...

Shouts of Racial Slurs During "Black Panther" Bring Police to Sparta Theatre

February 21, 2018

SPARTA, NJ – Sparta police were called to the New Vision Sparta Theater on Sunday night because of a woman shouting slurs in a screening of Black Panther.

Former New Jersey Assembly candidate Michael Grace was in the theater when two people started yelling racial slurs including “look at these ‘n-word’” and “can you believe these ...

Let the Games Begin

I am truly awed by the Olympics.  Watching these superb young athletes on TV inspires me to renew my membership to the gym and pursue my lifelong dream of taking home the gold.  


The problem is that in my deluded head, I can see actually see myself standing atop the podium.  I am wrapped in a puffy designer ski coat with a huge piece of bling slung around my neck ...

'What Stays' exposes family secrets and lies

‘What Stays’ exposes family secrets, resentment and lies

By Liz Keill

SUMMIT, NJ – In an original play by Laura Ekstrand and Jason Szamreta, the Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre has provided an enlightening, funny and heart-felt view of family foibles.

Ekstrand has said that the germ of the play came from conversations with the ensemble members of the troupe, based on ...