OSHKOSH – Ben Ganther isn’t Jewish.
But no one would blame you for driving past his family’s business Ganther Construction and assuming he is.
On the top of a flag pole on the sprawling grounds of the construction and architecture firm – just below Old Glory itself – waves an Israeli flag.
The flag is just one of several notable items adorning the grounds of the 117-year old business – things that give you a window into the worldview of Ganther, the company’s president.
Seated next to the flagpole is a gleaming statue of the Greek God Atlas – an homage to Ayn Rand’s classic novel “Atlas Shrugged.”
Ganther’s friend, Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, who lives in Oshkosh when he is not in Washington, D.C., paid for the base of the statue, which reads “Fight to Be Free.”
A few steps away, towards the entrance of the business, is a granite slab etched with the Prayer of St. Francis.
The Atlas Shrugged statue might give motorists a look into Ganther’s political philosophy – the prayer a window on his Catholic faith – but the Israeli flag is meant to make the many Jews who Ganther says he knows fully aware that he stands with them and the state of Israel.
“We have a lot of Jewish clients. I put the flag up to honor them and support Israel. I consider myself a Catholic Zionist,” he said.
Ganther has Jewish business clients here in the U.S. but also in Israel. He’s been to the country 13 times.
The business’ website features an Israeli flag that acts as a digital toggle switch that can translate the site into Hebrew.
Ganther supports a single-state solution to the troubles in Israel and believes that the U.S. Embassy should be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The businessman also belongs to the Friends of the Israeli Defense Force, through which he has donated money to put an Israeli soldier through college, and to create a USO-type building for Israeli troops.
He’s taken his daughters on tours of the country and to study at the celebrated Batsheva Dance Company, and his best friend lives in Bat Yam.
A devout Catholic, Ganther credits his faith for fostering his affection for the Holy Land.
“In Genesis, God is talking to Abraham, and says ‘you are my people, and I am your God.’ (In that chapter) God himself is telling everyone they should be friendly to the Jewish people,” Ganther said.
He also feels for his friends in Israel and the horrors they have witnessed, he said
“There is an Israeli phrase about dancing at two weddings, (You can’t dance at two weddings), but I wear a ‘Friends of the IDF’ band on my wrist and in my pocket I keep a finger rosary,” Ganther said. “Israel needs all the friends it can get.”