Daniel B. Shapiro ’91 Named U.S. Ambassador to Israel

Daniel B. Shapiro
Robert M. Stewart
Daniel B. Shapiro

Daniel B. Shapiro ’91, nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate in late May as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel, was deeply interested in the Middle East long before coming to Brandeis, where he majored in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, minored in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies and graduated Phi Beta Kappa.

Shapiro, who will move to Tel Aviv this summer, first traveled to Israel at age 4, when his parents — both academics — went there on sabbatical. He was just old enough to have the experience etched in lasting memory.

“It was 1973, and I was there during the Yom Kippur War,” he recalled in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his confirmation hearing. “There were air raid sirens, followed by hours spent in bomb shelters. I saw soldiers driving through the streets on their way to the front. This was very different from my life in Illinois, where we never experienced such visible and vivid threats to our security and way of life.”

There were many enjoyable hours too, as he and his siblings attended Israeli schools and spent time with residents of their Jerusalem neighborhood. He returned to Israel after high school and during his Brandeis years.

“In 1988, as the country was reeling from the violence of the first intifada, rocks rained down on the bus I took to Hebrew University,” Shapiro recalled, “and my Israeli classmates intensely debated the meaning of these events for their country’s future.”

Following completion of his studies at Brandeis and of a master’s degree at Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, he went to work on Capitol Hill, serving for more than a decade on the staffs of Senators Dianne Feinstein of California and Bill Nelson of Florida, spending a year as a lobbyist, and then joining the nascent presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama, who represented Shapiro’s home state.

During and after the campaign, Shapiro was a senior adviser to Obama on Middle East policy; he subsequently became senior director for the Middle East and North Africa at the National Security Council, the job he held until his confirmation as ambassador.

At Brandeis, Shapiro took a course in the history of Zionism with professor — now president emeritus — Jehuda Reinharz, Ph.D.’72, who says, “He was an outstanding student, very bright, very engaged. I am very proud of him. This is a terrific appointment.”

Julie Smith-Bartoloni ’90, who works in the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, was a roommate of Julie Fisher ’90, the sociology major who married Shapiro. “Daniel is one of the nicest people I know,” Smith Bartoloni says. “He’s cool and funny and wonderful. Julie is also one of the nicest people I know, and they are surrounded by Brandeis friends in everything they do.”