Isaac Herzog brings leadership legacy, good works to Israeli presidency


Isaac Herzog and Heschel Raskas at the Raskas home in St Louis in 2019.

HESCHEL RASKAS, Special to the Jewish Light

Isaac Herzog, soon to become president of Israel, is a remarkable leader who excels at building personal relationships and bridges across political, religious and social divides. The future of the Jewish people, those living in Israel and those in the Diaspora, are at the core of his life each and every day. He is a person who embodies Israeli leadership through the generations, following his father and grandfather.

In June 2018, Herzog was elected chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel. Prior to that time, he had been one of Israel’s  political leaders, as chair of the Labor Party and, at various times, serving as a minister in the government, leading the departments of welfare, Diaspora and tourism.

As newly elected chairman, Herzog tackled this role with the following perspective:

I embark on this mission with a deeply rooted sense a purpose instilled in me by my family. This history is the very essence of my personal experience. I am the grandson of the first chief rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yitzhak Halevi Herzog z”l, who rescued Jewish children from the Holocaust; the son of the sixth president of Israel, Chaim Herzog z”l, and the nephew of Abba Eban z”l, diplomat and statesman. I see it as my responsibility to continue on the path my family has paved, following in their footsteps in the service of the Jewish people, in Israel and around the Jewish world.”


The Raskas Family with Isaac Herzog in 2019 in St. Louis.

Herzog has brought exceptional leadership to the Jewish Agency, strengthening the professional team, working closely with lay leadership and significantly updating the strategic plan. In the past year during the pandemic, the Jewish Agency under Herzog’s leadership initiated programs to enable its representatives around the world to function in the unusual environment while still managing the budget. And with all this activity, Herzog traveled to Jewish communities around the world to learn and inspire.

As a member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency, I was privileged to participate in numerous formal and informal gatherings with Herzog. Of special interest to those of us in St. Louis was his visit to our city in May 2019. St. Louis historically has had a strong connection to and investment in the Jewish Agency. Herzog was very interested in learning about St. Louis and bringing to us his vision of the Jewish Agency. During his visit, my wife, Adinah, and I had several opportunities to interact with Herzog, including having him visit with us in our home.

At an open meeting of the Federation Board of Trustees, I had the honor of introducing Herzog, who is very familiar with Jewish life in the United States. During his high school years, his father was Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations. Herzog was able to attend the Modern Orthodox high school Ramaz in New York and participate in rallies at the Soviet Embassy urging freedom for Natan Sharansky when he spent nine years in Soviet prisons.

The Raskas family arranged for a cake to be baked in Jerusalem and delivered to Isaac Herzog at his Jewish Agency office.


Now that Chairman Herzog has become President Herzog, our family decided to make his connection to St Louis even stronger in a personal way: With the help of our daughter Ruth Raskas,we arranged for a cake to be baked in Jerusalem, symbolizing the connection, with the Hebrew words “Mazal Tov” on the top and symbols of Israel surrounding the cake and a decoration the shape of the Gateway Arch at the bottom. The cake was delivered to him at his Jewish Agency office and warmly received.

Incoming Israeli President Isaac Herzog with the cake ordered by the Raskas family.

Heschel Raskas is a former board chair of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis and a member of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Board of Governors. Raskas has a Ph.D. in biochemistry.