JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - The Board of Governors (BOG) of The Jewish Agency for Israel on Tuesday unanimously elected Chairman of the Executive Natan Sharansky to head the organization for a second term.
The BOG, which represents Jewish organizations from around the world, also elected Deputy Chairperson of the Executive Rany Trainin to an additional term.
In an address before the BOG on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded Sharansky and recommended his appointment to a second term.
“Natan has always been a symbol of Jewish unity and a symbol of the triumph of the Jewish people over adversity," Netanyahu said. "In all the years I've known you, you've been much more than a symbol, you've also worked tirelessly to promote Jewish unity and to secure the Jewish future."
Over the past four years the Jewish Agency has engaged in a major expansion of existing programs including: major increases in the number of shlichim (emmisaries) to campuses (Jewish Agency Israel Fellows to Hillel), increases in the number of long term and short term shlichim (with a focus on younger shlichim), targeted Birthright groups (Russians, among others), Masa Israel, Youth Futures, Ulpan Etzion, and an expansion of public housing for senior citizens (through Amigour) among many others.
In addition new programs have been created, including Onward, Project T.E.N., a range of programs for Russian speakers all over the globe (Europe, US, Australia), new programs for a year of volunteer service (shnat sherut) prior to army service (targeted at people from weaker socio-economic background), among many other programs. The Jewish Agency is also in the final stages of Operation Dove’s Wings to bring the remainder of Ethiopian Jewry to Israel.
“Friends, each time I want to feel energized I meet with participants of our Masa Israel program, new olim studying at Ulpan Etzion or our amazing shlichim and I know that idealism is still very alive. I want to say thank you to you,” Sharansky said after the election.
In December, Netanyahu asked Sharansky to study the issues and individuals involved in the debate over alternative prayer services at the Kotel (Western Wall) and to offer recommendations to the government on how to make the site more accommodating to all Jews.
Sharansky, a former Russian dissident, was incarcerated for nine years in the then Soviet Union. After his release in 1986, he made Aliyah to Israel where he was reunited with his wife Avital. He served as a member of the Knesset for nine years and as Industry and Trade Minister, Interior Minister, Housing and Construction Minister, Jerusalem Affairs Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. After leaving political life he was elected to his current post in 2009.
During his first term, Sharansky presided over the adoption and implementation of a new Strategic Plan and a major restructuring to enhance efficiency and meet current requirements. In addition, Jewish Agency International Development (JAID) was established to expand the Jewish agency’s fundraising capabilities. Sharansky also oversaw improved cooperation between the government of Israel and the Jewish Agency, and increases in the level of financial support by the government for programs connecting Israel and the Diaspora.