Michael Oren to be next Jewish Agency leader – opinion
Rarely do the demands of history and the fate of leaders historically fit to meet historical challenges coincide – let alone at a time of such urgency facing the Jewish world.
With the rapid rise of anti-Semitism beyond the borders of Europe or the former USSR, large numbers of Jews, especially young people in the United States, are being driven out and alienated from Jewish identity, of the Jewish people and the Jewish state. The Jewish Agency has the unique ability – and the historic responsibility – to defend the Jewish people and bring us out of the abyss.
At no time in Jewish history have the stakes been higher for the Jewish Agency and the leadership of its board of directors to choose a candidate with purpose and stature; a historical actor, experienced with Israel, the United States, skilled in diplomacy, and able to lead the Jewish Agency to am echad (a people), and in such a way that it creates a home for Jews of all sects of Jewish religious practice and cultural identity.
The appointments of Natan Sharansky and Isaac Herzog as presidents significantly elevated the position; this trajectory must continue.
Michael Oren has been fully linked to the Jewish Agency. As an American Jew, he made his aliya through the agency and resided in one of its absorption centers. He served as a lone soldier in the IDF, established the Lone Soldiers Caucus in the Knesset, and worked as an envoy to the refusniks in the Soviet Union. As Ambassador to the United States, he reached out to all streams of Judaism, insisting on speaking out in Reformed, Conservative, and Orthodox synagogues.
He worked closely with Sharansky to secure the Western Wall’s agreement for egalitarian prayer. He is a Knesset co-sponsor of Alyah Day and a member of the Knesset Committee on Immigration, Integration and Diaspora Affairs. Other role he played: representing Israel on the Birthright / Taglit steering committee.
The president must lead the Jewish Agency to reach young Jews where they are – not in synagogues but online with a message of inclusion, unity and respect for diversity, and a re-energized Israeli education designed to preserve and strengthen Jewish identity and Israel -Diasporic relations.
Michael Oren is one of the best known and respected figures in the Jewish world, a seasoned communicator in English and Hebrew, a distinguished historian, teacher, author and commentator, a leader in the anti-Semitism struggle and efforts to strengthen Israel. Relations with the diaspora. He is a political centrist, a traditional Jew with close ties to liberal and orthodox Judaism, uniquely accessible to all currents.
Strengthening Jewish identity and strengthening Israel and the global Jewish family means deepening the bonds between all the people of Israel, scattered throughout the Diaspora wherever we are, and the people of Israel living and defending the nation-state of the people. Jewish in our historic home: the Land of Israel.
Choosing the next head of the Jewish Agency can lead the Jewish people to renewed strength and the Jewish Agency to great success. Michael Oren is that leader.
The writer is a foreign policy specialist and associate researcher at the Hudson Institute.