The S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace mourns the passing of Sara Ehrman, who held numerous positions as a Democratic political operative, close Clinton family friend and Middle East peace activist, and often described herself as “first a Jew, second a Democrat, and above all a feminist.” She died Saturday at home in Washington at age 98.
Ehrman, who until earlier this year was senior adviser to the Center, had an extensive career that provided her with an exhaustive knowledge of the regional issues in the Middle East.
She joined the Center in early 1997, and in her role as senior adviser, traveled extensively throughout the Middle East to discuss ways to achieve Arab-Israeli peace and ensure Israel’s security, often accompanied by members of Congress. In that capacity, she met numerous heads of state, and had frequent meetings with high-level Israeli and Palestinian officials, including Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, both of whom she met numerous times.
Ehrman first traveled to Israel in 1959 and returned many dozens of times, meeting multiple times with every prime minister, from Yitzhak Rabin, whom she adored, to Benjamin Netanyahu, for whom she had no love lost. She traveled, as well, to Saudi Arabia, Oman, Lebanon and many other Arab states.
Ehrman grew up in a political, secular home in New York, and was introduced to the Labor Zionist movement as a teenager after attending a Young Poale Zion Alliance dance at a synagogue. She then spent summers at the movement’s Camp Kvutza, where she met Jews who lived in pre-state Israel and would inalterably influence the trajectory of her life.
Born Sara Teitelbaum to Hungarian Jewish immigrants, she married Libert Ehrman in 1940; the couple had two sons and later divorced.
As an Arab war loomed against Israel 50 years ago this week, Ehrman was working as a legislative assistant for Democratic Sen. Joseph Sill Clark of Pennsylvania. As Pennsylvania’s Jewish residents sought assistance from their congressman and senators, they often came to her, she said, because she was the only Jew on Clark’s staff, making her, the “voice of the Jews of Pennsylvania” on behalf of Israel.
Ehrman’s long career also saw her work as legislative director for Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.), then co-director of his failed presidential campaign; director of federal affairs for the governor of Puerto Rico; political director for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee; founder/director of the Texas/Israel Exchange; deputy political director for the 1992 Clinton for president campaign and a member of the Clinton/Gore transition team; and deputy political director of the Democratic National Committee. She also was a founding member of Americans for Peace Now.
Zikhronah Livrakha. May her memory be a blessing.