Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors approves Almog as chairman

Almog, 71, is the founder and chairman of ADI Negev Nahalat Eran Rehabilitation Village (formerly ALEH Negev Nahalat Eran), which provides residential, medical and social services to the disabled.

(R-L) Maj. Gen. (ret.) Doron Almog and Mark Wilf. (photo credit: OLIVIA FITOUSI/JAFI)
(R-L) Maj. Gen. (ret.) Doron Almog and Mark Wilf.
(photo credit: OLIVIA FITOUSI/JAFI)

Ex-IDF general Doron Almog was officially elected as the new executive chairman of the Jewish Agency by its Board of Governors (BOG) on Sunday after the 93-year-old organization went a year without a permanent leader.

“I stand before you today in great awe and respect, ready to take upon myself this huge mission of becoming the Chairman of the Executive. It is one more commitment that I take upon myself with you, my partners on this journey,” Almog said at the board meeting.

"Together, we will embark on another significant Jewish journey, to empower the people of Israel and the State of Israel for a future of hope, taking one more step towards Tikun Olam"

Doron Almog

“Together, we will embark on another significant Jewish journey, to empower the people of Israel and the State of Israel for a future of hope, taking one more step towards Tikun Olam [fixing the world].”

He mentioned that during his life, he took upon himself two “major commitments,” and that he is now at the beginning of the third. “I took the first one following the Yom Kippur War, when I was standing next to my brother Eran’s burned tank, realizing that he had remained bleeding in the battlefield for seven days and had been evacuated only when he was no longer alive,” he told the audience of the BOG.

“Standing next to his burned tank, I swore to keep fighting for the only Jewish state in the world and dedicate myself to its defense. I swore to leave no soldier behind. As a son of a bereaved family, I had the option of being exempted from combat service,” Almog said to the moved crowd.

(R-L) Mark Wilf and (ret.) Maj. Gen. Doron Almog. (credit: OLIVIA FITOUSI/JAFI)(R-L) Mark Wilf and (ret.) Maj. Gen. Doron Almog. (credit: OLIVIA FITOUSI/JAFI)

He mentioned that he was “the first soldier to land in Entebbe where we rescued 105 hostages in ‘Operation Entebbe,’” and that “for six years, I participated in covert operations that brought to Israel about 6,000 members of the Ethiopian community through the deserts of Sudan.”

HIS SECOND commitment related to his son Eran and promoting the assistance for and awareness of people with special needs. “11 years after the Yom Kippur War, our second son Eran was born, named after my brother,” Almog said emotionally.

“In all his 23 years, our son never spoke, never called me Abba and never made eye contact. He was the reason for my decision to leave the military and establish a rehabilitation village for people with disabilities in Southern Israel – ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran – providing love and the best professional care to those who are injured, disabled, or handicapped.”

After finishing his army service, he intended “to make us better people and a better society. A true Tikun Olam.”

“Today, I stand here before you as I am making my third commitment,” Almog said in tears, “to embark on my third Jewish journey, for the sake of the entire Jewish people; to reach the heart of every Jew on Earth. To instill pride in our Judaism and the State of Israel, the most important enterprise of the Jewish people since 1948. To instill pride in this one miracle called the State of Israel and its extraordinary achievements in science, technology, culture, agriculture, medicine, society, economy, army, aliyah, and more.”

He added that “The connection between the State of Israel and global Jewry is of existential strategic importance. Without the support of global Jewry, headed by American Jews and foreign volunteers in the War of Independence, I doubt that my parents’ generation, Israel’s founding generation, would have survived.”

Creating stronger connections with Diaspora Jewry

Almog stated that he will work with the agency’s employees and partner organizations to “increase aliyah and absorption, to build stronger connections with world Jewry and to reinforce the weaker sections in Israeli society.” Through these three activities, Almog wishes to return the agency back to its more classic and historical roles.

“Together, we will embark on another significant Jewish journey: to empower the people of Israel and the State of Israel for a future of hope, taking one more step towards Tikun Olam,” he said in closing: “Reinforce mutual commitment, love of humankind; reach the heart of every Jew in the world.”

In addition to being the founder and chairman of ADI Negev Nahalat Eran Rehabilitation Village, named after his late son, Eran, the 71-year-old former general previously served as head of the IDF’s Southern Command, and was in charge of securing the border with the Gaza Strip. In 2005, Almog landed in London but was warned not to deplane after Israel learned that British police were waiting to arrest him based on a warrant issued regarding his previous command over IDF troops in the coastal enclave. He stayed on the plane and returned to Israel.

Mark Wilf

The BOG also approved Mark Wilf as its new chairman. The outgoing chairman of The Jewish Federations of North America’s Board of Trustees, Wilf serves on a variety of educational and philanthropic boards, including those of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, American Society for Yad Vashem, Anti-Defamation League, New York University School of Law, Princeton University President’s Advisory Council, Yeshiva University, and more. He has long been involved in local, national and global efforts to ensure the welfare and vitality of the Jewish community and the State of Israel.

“I am delighted to join The Jewish Agency family and help ensure that we continue to strengthen the connections between Israel and global Jewish communities,” Wilf said on Sunday. “The seismic events of recent years have only reinforced the need for mutual responsibility. I can say with confidence that there is no other organization quite like the Jewish Agency that can connect the Jewish people globally to ensure we are really stronger together.”

Michael Siegal 

The event also bid farewell to outgoing Chairman of the Board Michael Siegal, who completed a successful five-year term during which he led a robust strategic plan addressing the most pressing issues in the Jewish world today.

“Over the course of my chairmanship, The Jewish Agency in particular and the Jewish people at-large have been faced with unprecedented challenges – including the pandemic and war in Ukraine – which placed our organization at the forefront of meeting the urgent needs of world Jewry,” Siegal said.

“Indeed, The Jewish Agency’s historic role as the Jewish people’s first-responder has arguably never been more indispensable than it is today,” he said. “It has been an honor to be part of The Jewish Agency’s senior leadership, and to oversee its important and impressive work on behalf of us all.”

Yaakov Hagoel 

The Jewish Agency also gave recognition to World Zionist Organization Chairman Yaakov Hagoel, who has served as the agency’s acting chairman of the executive, where he led the organization as it navigated bringing thousands of olim (immigrants) in distress from Ukraine and Ethiopia to Israel. He will remain acting chairman until August 2022, when Almog will assume the permanent position.

“I thank you for the privilege of leading the selection committee for the chairmanships of The Jewish Agency Executive and Board,” Hagoel told attendees. “Despite the long process, the committee selected individuals who are highly worthy of those positions – Doron Almog, who as a general in the IDF and a recipient of the Israel Prize has made many contributions to the State of Israel, and has now embarked on another mission in which he will contribute immensely to the people of Israel and to world Jewry; and Mark Wilf, who has been working for the benefit of the Jewish people for many years and will now head our Board of Governors.”

Also scheduled to participate will be President Isaac Herzog and many members of Knesset across the political spectrum, who will be engaging in dynamic discussions at the three-day global conference.