An unabashed defender of Israel, Jordan Chandler Hirsch developed some of his confidence in 2006 when, as an 18-year-old student at Columbia University, he rose to ask visiting Iranian United Nations Ambassador Mohammad Zarif an intentionally prickly question.
“Do you believe that 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust?” he asked.
Zarif, now Iran’s foreign minister, dodged the question.
“He’s an educated man,” Hirsch recalled. “I’m sure he knew the truth, but he was a member of a Holocaust-denying government. So he simply said that if it were true, it was not the Palestinians’ fault.”
Hirsch said he could “see that I had rattled him, and I got a lot out of challenging this guy. … It gave me a lot of confidence.”
He went on to graduate Summa Cum Laude with a degree awarded with honors for his senior thesis, “The Soviet Jewry Movement, the Right to Leave, and the Rise of Human Rights on the International Stage.”
“I live in a generation that is very pragmatic — they are concerned about practical things and things like human rights and identity and Israel are not an issue for them,” Hirsch said. “They are not ideological. I would have preferred to live through the Soviet Jewry movement. Today, people know what is going on but they don’t want to deal with it. Israel has become so contentious that people … don’t feel comfortable in asserting a pro-Israel stance.”
Thus it was that Hirsch suggested to fellow students that they organize a pro-Israel rally after Israel’s 2008 war with Hamas to show “we are proud of who we are.”
“I didn’t think I was asking too much, but it was astonishing how afraid Hillel was,” he said. “They wouldn’t do it, so pro-Israel groups did and I wrote about it for a campus publication. …So fighting against the organizational mindset in the Jewish community has been a big part of how I see my role in the Jewish community.”
Hirsch is expected to graduate from Yale Law School in December. He has been a staff editor at Foreign Affairs, where he commissioned and edited articles, and an assistant op-ed editor at the Wall Street Journal. He said his dream job would be working at the senior foreign policy level in the federal government.
A righty and a lefty: Hirsch is ambidextrous, which means he can switch-hit when playing baseball and can throw a football with both hands.