Ahavath Sholom to honor King as Righteous Gentile
Photo: Courtesy Office of State Rep. Phil King
Texas State Representative Phil King, far right, and Texas State Senator Bryan Hughes present a Texas flag to U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem Nov. 13, 2019.

By James Russell
Special to the TJP

In 2017, State Representative Phil King, a Weatherford Republican, was the lead sponsor of the bill banning Texas government from doing business with any entities participating in the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. Texas became the 18th state to have such a law. Since then, 10 more states have enacted such laws.

On Sunday, March 15, Congregation Ahavath Shalom will honor King with its first Righteous Gentile Award.

The idea for the event came from “a bunch of us sitting around, wanting to do something fun,” said event organizer, Rich Hollander.

The foodie and unabashed supporter of Israel combined two of his passions for the event, which features a menu curated by Brian Moses, a Fort Worth native who is executive chef of Olive + June in Austin.

Among the items on the three course meal are hummus, romesco, pumpkin seed gremolata and fennel pollen, a latke with crème fraiche, chive and caviar and salmon pastrami with rye toast, pickled mustard seeds and gribiche and everything spice.

The meal is completely kosher, he said.

But the food should not take away from the event’s importance.

“In the times we live in, it’s important to reach out to Gentiles,” Hollander said. “To have a Gentile stand up and say this is how we want people to stand up for Texas’ 10th largest trading partner is powerful.”

The law, like companions across the country, has been challenged in court. While some versions were held up, others, like Texas’ law, required tweaking.

The previous bill stated sole proprietorships as well as companies and other entities must sign a contract when doing business with the state. But “sole proprietors” was loosely defined, and led to numerous instances of individual contractors across the state losing their jobs. 

A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of four Texans argued the law “forces them to choose between their livelihoods and their First Amendment rights.” Other instances of misunderstandings regarding who must sign the contract included a government contractor in the Pflugerville Independent School District who refused to sign the document as well as disaster aid applicants in Dickinson, a small town in Galveston County. 

The 2019 version removed “sole proprietors” and only applies to contracts with companies making in excess of $100,000 and with more than 10 employees. 

Along with the award, a grove will be planted in King’s honor in Israel.

“I’m very surprised and honored to receive this recognition. Texans have so many ties to Israel. It’s critical that Texas be an example to other states in our support for Israel,” said King, speaking from Israel Tuesday.

The event takes place at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, March 15, at Congregation Ahavath Shalom, 4050 S. Hulen St. A table for 10 is $2,500 and individual seats are available for $250. For reservations call 817-731-4721.

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