For eight years, Natan Sharansky has overseen Israel-diaspora relations as head of the Jewish Agency. Tasked with maintaining connections with Jewish communities around the world, as well as fostering Aliyah and public diplomacy, the former Soviet Prisoner of Zion, refusenik leader, and leading politician has by most accounts done an excellent job, with the Agency asking him in 2017 to serve an extra year as chairman.
This year, Sharansky has been tasked with managing two potential crises: the sudden freeze of a plan to create an egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall and a controversy regarding the recognition of conversions by the Israeli rabbinate. “Although I was skeptical of the value of remaining for an additional year, what has taken place in recent months has convinced me that it is important that I remain,” he said.
Sharansky warned of the cost of the growing rift between Israel and the diaspora, saying, “I do believe that we can overcome these (current) crises. I’m not sure we will be able to restore this type of relationship and trust. And that’s a big loss.” (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.)