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Reagan Selects Cummings to Be Next U.S. Ambassador to Austria

March 12, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

— Theodore Cummings of Beverly Hills, Calif., who is regarded as President Reagan’s closest Jewish friend, has been selected by the President to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Austria, the country where he was born, a White House source informed the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today.

While the White House would not officially confirm the appointment of Cummings pending a formal announcement, it was understood that his nomination probably will be submitted to the Senate for confirmation late next week.

Cummings, 72, a financier and philanthropist in the Los Angeles area, has been close to Reagan for more than 30 years and supported him in his Gubernatorial and Presidential campaigns. He was an honorary co-chairman of the Coalition for Reagan-Bush, the Jewish organization that strongly backed Reagan’s Presidential bid last year.

Cummings immigrated to the United States with his widowed mother in 1920, at the age of 11, and started life in America in New York City’s then flourishing Yiddish theater. But he made his fortune in southern California where he became a grocer and expanded his business into a major food retail and supermarket chain which he sold in 1959. He is presently active in California as a civic leader and investor.

Cummings will be the third American Jew in succession to serve as Ambassador to Vienna. In 1977, President Carter appointed Milton Wolf of Cleveland to that post. Wolf resigned a year ago and was succeeded by Philip Kaiser of New York, who was then U.S. Ambassador to Hungary. Kaiser left Vienna last month.


The Vienna post in no sinecure. It is considered extremely important since Austria, following the post-World War II four power occupation by the U.S., Britain, France and the Soviet Union, has established itself as a buffer between East and West. It is the principal way-station where refugees from the East-notably Soviet Jews–are received and processed.

Austria’s Chancellor, Bruno Kreisky, who is Jewish, is deeply involved in seeking a solution of the Israeli-Arab conflict which, in his view, requires mutual recognition between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. He was the first Western head of government to invite PLO chief Yasir Arafat to his capital.

A ripple in U.S.-Austrian affairs was created a year ago by an arms sales development. An Austrian company, using the technology of an American firm, shipped rifles to a source not authorized under the American licensing agreement. According to the State Department, the rifles, destined for Pakistan, were diverted to the PLO. The license was suspended.

Cummings is the first Jewish Trustee of the University of Southern California where he fought conditions attached to a large Saudi Arabian grant to that institution. He is also founder of the Theodore Cummings Collection of Hebraica and Judaica at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has served as chairman of the Regional Leadership Conference for State of Israel Bonds.

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