By: Sruli Friedman  | 

Senator John Fetterman Speaks About Israel, Yeshiva University and Commencement 2024

Despite only being sworn into the United States Senate for the first time last January, Senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania has already been making a name for himself as an influential voice both on Capitol Hill and across the country. Since the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks on Israel, Senator Fetterman has emerged as one of the most vocal supporters of Israel and opponents of antisemitism in the Senate. 

In recognition of his dedication to public service and leadership, Yeshiva University announced that Senator Fetterman would be receiving the Presidential Medallion, the school’s highest honor, from YU President Ari Berman at the 93rd Annual Commencement Wednesday. The Commentator sat down with the senator for a brief chat to discuss the challenges facing the State of Israel, antisemitism in the United States and YU’s graduating class of 2024.

The Commentator: I just wanted to thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. We really appreciate it. We also appreciate all your work in support of Israel, especially since the Oct. 7 attacks. We're curious where your strong stance of support for Israel comes from. Why is it that this issue specifically is so important to you? 

Senator Fetterman: Well, I mean, it's always felt like it was the right side to be on in that situation. You know, I was very touched by the Tree of Life massacre a little over five years ago. That's very close to where I live and that really just was an astounding level of antisemitism and violence. But of course then everything changed after Oct. 7 and after what Hamas has done and what they're continuing to do. It's been a pretty straightforward decision to stay on the side of Israel during that situation.

The Commentator: We're speaking because tomorrow you'll be receiving the Presidential Medallion from President Ari Berman of YU. What does this award mean to you? 

Senator Fetterman: Well, I'm beyond honored. I read up about some of the people that have received that award before and I don't belong in that company. I'm just a senator who just really believes in Israel, especially during this terrible situation. I don't really believe I'm deserving of it, but I'm honored to be there, and I am just so disappointed with the way that the college protesting situation has gone and the failure to address all of the rampant antisemitism there, and now where there are still well over 100 hostages that are still missing, there's just not much good news throughout all of this situation right now. But I'm really honored to be with you all tomorrow.

The Commentator: So in the past you've spoken and met with a bunch of YU students at the Capitol, at D.C., many of whom will be graduating tomorrow. What has your impression been of Yeshiva University and YU students in the past couple of months?

Senator Fetterman: I can't speak to your experiences and everything, what that's been like and the collective history and everything. I'm not a part of the community to be able to speak to how they feel. My impression is simply as someone that really wants to be supportive through all of that. And on the political side of everything, I early on thought and realized that the dynamic’s gonna continue to change and go against the favor of Israel. I've always just wanted to project and center the conversation on bringing all the hostages back home and centering the conversation that Hamas was responsible through all of this. They were the start of it, and I don't know why people are not demanding they surrender. 

I certainly don't need to remind any members of your community of what happened on Oct. 7 and what that means. I just do hope, I really hope, that there's some joy that you're actually graduating as well, too, and that maybe you're able to see that kind of a triumph in graduating, you know, given everything that's happened since Oct. 7. 

The Commentator: Are there any words of encouragement or advice that you would like to give to the YU class of 2024? 

Senator Fetterman: No, I don't have any advice. It's just my honor to be a small part of your event tomorrow with everything that you've had to confront, what's going on both domestically and also in Gaza. It's just an honor to be a small part of it.

The Commentator: Thank you so much! I know we have to keep time short, but we really appreciate this conversation. It's fantastic to be able to speak to you after seeing all the work you've been doing over the past couple of months and we all really appreciate it and hope to show our appreciation tomorrow.

Senator Fetterman: I always committed myself to be a very strong, unwavering voice, but I never expected that it would resonate. If anything, I was just surprised. And it's also really unfortunate that there weren't more people that decided to hold with Israel throughout this situation. 

The Commentator: Thank you so much. We really appreciate your time and thank you so much for all the work you've been doing in the Senate.


Photo Caption: Sen. Fetterman receiving a YU hoodie from students at the Capitol in April

Photo Credit: YUPAC