The Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel unanimously reelected Natan Sharansky to a second term as chairman on Tuesday.
Sharansky, who served nine years in a Soviet prison before immigrating to Israel in 1986, was a member of Knesset from 1996-2003, and again briefly in 2006. He held several ministerial posts before retiring from government service.
He was first elected chairman of the Jewish Agency in June 2009.
On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the Board of Governors, and called on the body to reelect Sharansky.
“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.”
After his reelection, Sharansky said that whenever he visits with participants on a Jewish Agency Israel program, new immigrants learning Hebrew, or agency emissaries abroad, “I know that idealism is still very alive.”
According to a Jewish Agency press release, during his first term Sharansky presided over the adoption and implementation of a strategic plan to enhance Agency efficiency.
During Sharansky’s time in office, the Jewish Agency International Development (JAID) was established to expand fundraising capabilities, and he oversaw improved cooperation between the Jewish Agency and the Israeli government, the organization said in a press release.
One of the several projects currently being undertaken by the Jewish Agency is Operation Dove’s Wings, which aims to bring the remaining Ethiopian Jews to Israel.
In December, Sharansky was asked by Netanyahu to find a solution to the current situation at the Western Wall, where women have been pushing for the right to pray while wearing prayer shawls and reading from the Torah. The prime minister has assigned Sharansky the daunting task of offering recommendations to make the site accommodating to all Jews.