Jeremy Shinewald, a former Winnipegger who lives in New York, gave a very entertaining and humorous talk about how he came to be the sole speechwriter for then Israeli Ambassador to the United States David Ivry, for whom he wrote more than 70 policy addresses. (His speeches were published in the Washington Post, Washington Times and other major international media outlets).
Shinewald explained that in 1998 he had an arts degree in Political Science and had been fortunate enough to get a scholarship to study in Israel from the Asper Foundation, which resulted in his studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Through a contact there he came to understand that there was a job opening, albeit not advertised at the Israeli Embassy in Washington for a public affairs officer. He interviewed extensively and it seemed like he would get the job. As he told the Winnipeg Jewish Review, "I pestered them for three months, flew to Washington, interviewed with a half dozen people and then didn't get the job!"
Having earlier referenced the Asper Foundation, Shinewald had the crowd laughing when he noted he ended up doing an "unpaid internship at the Canada's Embassy in Washington sponsored by the Shinewald Foundation," and described the Canadian Embassy as a professional well-trained office.
He then heard from an Israeli diplomat that there was a job opening for an officer of public affairs and was told to call Ambassador Avi Granot, and "I was hired on the phone," he said as the audience chuckled.
Shinewald then described how when he arrived for the first day of work, "no one told security that I would be there." He said for the first couple of weeks "I had nothing to do" and he found himself in the lunch room as security guard and a driver challenged each other to drop stacks of plates on the ground! (It was an absurd contrast to the Canadian embassy!!!)
Shinewald again had the crowd laughing as he told the story of how his supervisor stood in front of the White House and asked, "Do you know what is it White House?" When I exasperatedly responded, "Of course, I know what is it White House." He said, "My daughter not know what is it White House." His daughter was two years old.
Shinewald then explained that he next became the "general inquiry line" for the embassy, as all inquiries were forwarded to his desk. "I basically became the consumer complaints desk" and spent much of his time "dealing with crackpots." He referred to a woman calling herself "Princess Gina" who "called 50 times a day."
After a couple more weeks the Embassy asked Shinewald to go to speak to school children. "I was never given any bullet points or a topic, but I began speaking to school children." Then one day "a smart ass" asked him, "Does Israel have Nuclear weapons? Shinewald answered on the spot, "No. Next Question." (He learned later that he could have answered "Israel will not be the first power to introduce nuclear weapons.")
In addition to speaking to school children, Shinewald became the "go to" person to speak to religious groups and university students.
He related another story when he was invited to speak to Hillel students at the University of Maryland Baltimore College. "Four people from Hillel came as did 200 Palestinian activists "who shouted down everything I said."
Shinewald learned that the Israeli Ambassador to Washington David Ivry was looking for a speech writer and the job was not posted. Avi Granot told him that Ivri, (who had assumed the post of Ambassador to the US in January 2000) was coming to Miami. Shinewald was told to speak to the Ambassador's Chief of staff who told him "You have got 40 hours to write a speech for him [the Ambassador] and if he likes it you've got the job."
Shinewald drew laughter from the audience when he described how he wrote the speech and "I didn't have anyone to run it by so I sent it to my brother." He inserted an old joke about Golda Meir who used to say when in the United states, "We'll give you some of our Generals, such as General Dayan and General Allon, if you'll give us General Motors."
Ambassador David Ivri liked the speech and Shinewald was hired. Ivry, had served as commander-in-chief of the Israeli Air Force, and directed the IAF's destruction of the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981.
"I used to say that I wrote speeches for the man who saved the world," Shinewald quipped, recalling how on the wall in Ivri's office there was a photo - there was a photo of the bombed out Osirak site in Iraq, which had a handwritten note from Dick Cheney which said, “With thanks and appreciation for the outstanding job you did on the Iraqi nuclear program in 1981, which made our job much easier in Desert Storm!”
Shinewald had the audience smiling when he explained that at times he would be sent ahead to help the Ambassador find his hotel room. On one occasion he was told to get there early to help the Ambassador find his "harbour view suite." As Shinewald told the laughing crowd, "The man found a nuclear reactor. I don't think he needs me to find his hotel room."
Shinewald said that in his view the reason Ivry became the Ambassador was "because of the Pentagon" since Israel was making a key purchase involving helicopters. "He was sent there to get these helicopters for Israel," Shinewald said. At the time, there was a Labour government, and "Ivri's public relations battle was being done for him by [then Prime Minister Ehud] Barak.”
Shinewald said that he had two stump speeches -one political, and one economic. He noted that Ivry was a very reserved man and that he kept him at a distance always. He recalled how he was deeply touched when Ivry read the economic related speech and wrote: Tov Me'od (Very Good!)." It was "unusual praise from him."
Shinewald also spoke about what it was like being at the Israeli Embassy during the summit meeting at Camp David between United States president Bill Clinton, Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat. (The summit, which took place between 11 and 25 July 2000 and was an effort to negotiate an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ended without an agreement, with President Clinton placing the blame for this on Arafat). As Shinewald recalled, "Everyone was excited until the [Israeli] Foreign Ministry arrived" and then it became clear that "they didn't need the Embassy."
Shinewald also delighted the crowd when he outlined how there were days when he would ride his bike to the Embassy in shorts and be working on the fourth floor virtually by himself crafting speeches. "I would look outside a window and would see Mario one of the guys from the Consulate driving my bike around the courtyard."
Shinewald resigned from the Embassy in order to go "to graduate school." He was admitted to several top domestic and international MBA programs and ultimately became one of the youngest members of his class at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, where he was an admissions interviewer, wrote a Business Ethics case and a Small Business Acquisitions case and was chosen by his peers to be Class Graduation Speaker.
In his talk at Limmud, Shinewald said that he was able to turn his writing skills, honed by his experience at the Israeli Embassy working as speech writer "into a career." Prior to his graduation, Shinewald laid the foundation for what would later become his business, "mbaMission", by helping a small number of applicants gain acceptance to top-tier MBA programs. After his graduation Shinewald founded "mbaMission", which provides admissions consulting services to applicants who want to be admitted to MBA programs, and law school programs. His business provides these services to applicants from the United States and more than 30 other countries on six continents. In addition to mbaMission, Shinewald has started jdMission, MBA Career Coaches and M7Financial. Shinewald is married to Samantha and they have a daughter Maya.