Natan Sharansky won’t serve another term as Jewish Agency head

Natan Sharansky

Natan Sharansky on Feb 20, 2011 (The Jewish Agency for Israel/ Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

(JTA) — Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky announced he will be stepping down from his position at the end of his second term in June 2017.

“I’m not going to serve another term,” Sharansky told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. “I told the prime minister. It’s not healthy for the organization. There must be new people and new ideas.”

Sharansky, 68, said he will continue working to foster connections between Diaspora Jewry and Israel, without specifying in what capacity he will do so.

“All my life I’ve been doing the same job really – connecting between Israel and world Jewry. I’m not going to leave this topic,” he said.

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A famed Soviet prisoner of conscience who was able to immigrate to Israel in 1986, Sharansky has served as chairman for The Jewish Agency for Israel, the world’s largest Jewish nonprofit group, since June 2009. The organization, funded in large part by Jewish communities in the diaspora, promotes Jewish immigration to Israel, promotes ISrael awareness abroad and runs programs for vulnerable operations in Israel.

Sharansky’s recent efforts include trying to secure a compromise for an egalitarian plaza at the Western Wall and calling for wider recognition by the Israeli rabbinate of conversions done by rabbis outside the Jewish state.

Previously, he was active in Israeli politics, serving in the Knesset and in various ministerial roles. Most recently he represented the right-leaning Likud party in 2006.