Danny Danon would be an excellent Jewish Agency chair - opinion

Having worked across the entire Jewish spectrum, he is the ideal candidate for the position at this important time for Israel and the Jewish people.

 DANNY DANON (photo credit: Eskinder Debebe)
(photo credit: Eskinder Debebe)

One of the most important organizations in Jewish life today is the Jewish Agency. Established as one of the National Institutions of Israel, the Jewish Agency represents the interests of the State of Israel and the Jewish people globally.

The chair of the Jewish Agency has historically been a luminary leader with vision. For more than four years, Ambassador Danny Danon served with distinction as Israel’s permanent representative to the UN, achieving significant stature for Israel across UN venues and receiving the honor to serve as Israel’s first diplomat elected as the vice president of the UN General Assembly. 

He served with dignity, respect and pride as he asserted Israel’s right to equality as a UN member state. Ambassadors, foreign ministers and prime ministers were drawn to him due to his engaging personality, his interest in their issues, and his ability to listen and decipher pure rhetoric from a willingness to broaden and deepen engagement with Israel.

Danon is consistently creative with his outreach and initiatives. Under the auspices of the International March of the Living jointly sponsored by the American Zionist Movement, we had the privilege of working with him to launch a series of four delegations of UN Ambassadors on Holocaust educational missions to Poland and Israel. The impact of Danon’s vision to initiate these trips has been enormous in not only changing the narrative but achieving positive votes on key issues and UN resolutions.

The Jewish Agency recently opened its doors to considered candidates for the position of chairmanship. While there is an impressive array of talented individuals, Danon’s leadership abilities displayed through his more than 30 years of public service and experiences merit full support. 

The Jewish Agency headquarters in Jerusalem (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)The Jewish Agency headquarters in Jerusalem (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Having worked across the entire Jewish spectrum, he is the ideal candidate for the position at this important time for Israel and the Jewish people. His insight into the Jewish communities in Israel and worldwide is essential to our future. In these challenging times of corona, he is one of the few leaders who has called for the government to review entry criteria for diaspora Jews and other people in order to ease the already difficult situation.

The Jewish Agency is close to his heart. At 16 he was selected by the Jewish Agency to take part in a youth exchange program in the US and Canada. Toward the conclusion of his military service, he became overall commander of the Marva Program, a joint initiative between the Jewish Agency and the IDF designed to introduce Jewish students from the Diaspora to the IDF and to civilian life.

After that, he served as a Jewish Agency emissary to the US for three years. His identification with its mission, programs and vision for the Jewish world is renowned.

He served as a member of the Knesset, chairman of the Immigration and Absorption Committee, deputy defense minister, and minister of science and technology in the Knesset prior to his role at the UN. These connected him with the Jewish people as a valued and trusted friend and advocate.

DURING HIS tenure as ambassador he was able to tackle some of the major daily challenges faced by world Jewry. He spoke up on issues that affect us all, such as antisemitism and the BDS movement against Israel. His vision of building stronger bonds extends to embracing and educating the next generation and their families to instill in them a passion for Zionism. 

He once told us that every morning when he walked into the UN headquarters in New York he would stare up at the 193 flags flying at its entrance. “Many flags feature the cross, many the crescent, but there is only one flag displaying the Magen David, the Star of David. That flag fills me with immense pride and I am committed to continuing my dedication to represent our very unique nation”.

We saw him stand up at the UN General Assembly and put on a yarmulke in front of thousands of dignitaries. We saw him read a quote which translates as our eternal nation is not scared of the long journey. We saw him represent Israel and the Jewish people proudly and effectively. We know that he will do everything it takes to strengthen and secure the Jewish future as chairman of the Jewish Agency in furtherance of its important mission.

He says time and again, “Our enemies don’t distinguish between Jews, be they left or right, Reform, Conservative or Orthodox, and neither should we. Let us cherish our unity and continue to strengthen it wherever we may be in the world. Our unity is our uniqueness and our strength and we must never take it for granted.”

Today, the Jewish people find ourselves battling antisemitism and the demonization of Israel. We need unity and bold, proven and inspiring leadership. Danon will bring energy, insight, experience, knowledge and dignity that will strengthen the Jewish Agency and the Jewish people. 

We have no doubt that he is the best candidate to lead the Jewish Agency into the future at this time. We believe he will serve with vision and a determination to build upon the Jewish Agency’s proud tradition of service to Israel and the Jewish people.

Richard Heideman has served as president of B’nai B’rith International, President of the American Zionist Movement and is co-chair of the Israel Forever Foundation.

Phyllis Greenberg Heideman has served as Presidential Appointee to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum Council, is President of the International March of the Living and Co-Chair of the Israel Forever Foundation.

The opinions expressed in this article are their own.