Photo Credit: Nir Kafri, courtesy the Jewish Agency for Israel
Sharansky and Herzog, June 24, 2018

The Board of Governors of The Jewish Agency for Israel on Sunday unanimously elected MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) to succeed Natan Sharansky as Chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive. The vote by Jewish leaders from around the world took place a short time ago at the opening plenary of the Board’s June meetings in Jerusalem.

In electing Herzog, the Board accepted the recommendation of the Leadership Nominating Committee, composed of the leaders of The Jewish Agency’s constituent organizations – the Jewish Federations of North America, Keren Hayesod-UIA, and the World Zionist Organization.

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The board effectively rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s choice for the job, Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources Yuval Steinitz (Likud). Indeed, the selection of Herzog, who is the Knesset opposition leader, is viewed as retaliation from the board for Netanyahu’s “betrayal” of US Jewry over the status of non-Orthodox denominations in Israel and their access to a mixed-sex portion of the Western Wall.

Signaling that he understand why had been selected, Herzog told the board on Sunday: “A Jew is a Jew is a Jew, no matter his denomination or the type of kippah he chooses to wear or not to wear on his head. I promise to work hard on promote Jewish unity and to partner with the Prime Minister and the government to achieve this crucial goal.”

According to Ynet, the ten-member board voted for Herzog 9 to 1, but when they went with their choice to the PM, he asked them to consider Steinitz, a candidate he had not recommended at any point earlier, raising suspicions that he was not entirely unhappy with Herzog. The board then interviewed Steinitz, and voted for Herzog 8 to 2. And so, with his appointment confirmed, Chairman-elect Herzog will resign from the Knesset shortly enter his new job on August 1.

Chairman of the Board of Governors Michael Siegal thanked Natan Sharansky for his “nine years of outstanding leadership and direction and hope,” adding that he was “confident that Isaac Herzog will lead The Jewish Agency in the same honorable and compassionate fashion as Natan Sharansky.”

Sharansky said: “We are the only organization whose leadership includes representatives of both the coalition and the opposition, of Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jewry, and of Jewish communities around the world. We are the independent voice of the Jewish people and, at the same time, our main partner is the government of Israel. It is essential that we preserve both our independence and our partnership, and I wish you (Herzog) much success in that crucial endeavor.”

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