Jewish Agency CEO: Jews living in 'interesting and paradoxical period'

No. 32 on The Jerusalem Post's Top 50 Most Influential Jews of 2021: First female CEO and director-general of the The Jewish Agency for Israel Amira Ahronoviz.

Amira Ahronoviz (photo credit: FLASH90)
Amira Ahronoviz
(photo credit: FLASH90)
Amira Ahronoviz, 49, was appointed by former Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog as the first female CEO and director-general of the The Jewish Agency for Israel in December 2018, and has proved to be both effective and innovative in the role. She has led the organization during a difficult period of COVID-19, rising antisemitism and increasing alienation of the younger generation.
Together with Herzog, she drafted a comprehensive strategic plan to meet the challenges of the Jewish people in the next decade, including boosting aliyah from around the world, ensuring security for Jewish communities worldwide facing antisemitism, and strengthening the connection between Israel and the Diaspora.
Under her leadership, The Jewish Agency is focusing on serving as a bridge between Israel and the Diaspora, creating partnerships with hundreds of communities in the Diaspora and dispatching some 2,000 emissaries to about 60 countries.
She was instrumental in establishing a mechanism to transfer emergency funds to Jewish communities in crisis over the pandemic, together with the Jewish Federations of North America and Keren Hayesod. They set up JReady to help communities in the Diaspora deal with COVID-19 by connecting them with experts and methods to cope with emergencies. At the same time, they also set up a fund to help Jewish communities secure Jewish institutions from antisemitic attacks.
The Jewish Agency established an operation center to help thousands of immigrants from around the world make aliyah, despite the pandemic. Despite the closure of the airport and the cancellation of many flights, it managed to bring doctors and nurses to Israel to help the medical efforts here, and spearheaded Operation Rock of Israel operation to bring some 2,000 immigrants from Ethiopia. Thousands of youths also came to Israel from abroad on career and volunteer programs in the framework of Masa Israel Journey, funded by the government and The Jewish Agency.
 View of the Jewish Agency headquarters in Jerusalem,  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90) View of the Jewish Agency headquarters in Jerusalem, (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
“The corona crisis created a situation in which communities outside of North America – many of them small but splendid – which for years supported the State of Israel, suddenly collapsed without the ability and infrastructure to survive the impact of the pandemic,” she told The Jerusalem Post. “These sought the aid and assistance of Israel and from global organizations such as ours. This strengthened the need for a global Jewish platform that would take care of the essential assets of mutual responsibility.”
Having grown up in Israel’s periphery, her focus in Israel has been working together with Diaspora Jewry to strengthen weaker communities in peripheral communities and invest in young leaders in those communities, as well as thousands of elderly people and Holocaust survivors living in  Amigour Housing, new immigrants at absorption centers, lone soldiers who made aliyah without their families, victims of terror and residents of Gaza border communities.
Ahronoviz, who holds an MA in Business Management and is a graduate of the Mandel Educational Leadership Institute in Jerusalem, spent several years abroad, living in Diaspora communities.
“The fact that I had the chance to grow up in Jewish communities in the Diaspora, to be exposed to the richness, the variety and the mutual responsibility of Jewish life, to a large extent helped me define the way in which I perceive my Jewishness today,” she said. “As I lead The Jewish Agency, I do it with an inherent perception from my own personal story.” 
She has worked for more than 26 years at the Jewish Agency in various roles in the field and later on in management positions – namely as regional director of The Jewish Agency’s Loan Funds, director of Partnership Regions, director of Budget and Finance for eight years, VP for Strategy and Planning and as the deputy director general & COO – leading organization-wide strategic and programmatic development and operations, and supervising all the program units and the worldwide operations of the organization.
Before becoming CEO, she took a two-year break from The Jewish Agency in order to participate in the Mandel Educational Leadership Institute’s Fellowship program where her major research area was “Social Impact Investing,” which she believes holds immense potential to address the most pressing social challenges via innovative financial vehicles. As an outcome of this fellowship, she and the The Jewish Agency team developed Crowd.IL – a digital platform employing such instruments for addressing social gaps in Israeli society, as well as advance the strategic goal of connecting world Jewry to Israel, with an emphasis on the younger generation.
Jewish Agency ‘shlichim’ at the North American Shlichim Conference. (credit: NIR ARIELI)Jewish Agency ‘shlichim’ at the North American Shlichim Conference. (credit: NIR ARIELI)
Ahronoviz is a mother of three, lives in Mazkeret Batya and is a member of the Keshet Community – an urban association of religious and secular Jews that runs a joint education system as part of shared community life with pluralistic vision. She has been active in the community for the past 12 years, since its formation, first as a member of its executive board and later in various volunteer capacities.
In the past year, Ahronoviz has significantly raised the percentage of women in key positions in The Jewish Agency, both in Israel and abroad. For example, in June she appointed Gadeer Kamal-Mreeh, the first female Druze member of Knesset, as The Jewish Agency’s top emissary in Washington, DC, where she also supports Israeli engagement efforts on North American college campuses. 
“This unprecedented appointment will bring greater awareness regarding that diverse landscape to the United States as part of our efforts to strengthen understanding of Israel worldwide,” she said.
Regarding the current situation in Israel and the Diaspora, Ahronoviz said, “We are living in an interesting and paradoxical period for the Jewish people. Most of them live under free regimes in Israel and abroad, where they can conduct Jewish lives in a way that suits them, while integrating and influencing the society in which they live. The current period is full of significant challenges that threaten the future of the Jewish people.”
Asked what she meant, she said: “With the establishment of Israel, the prevailing paradigm was that all Jews would gather in one place, the State of Israel. Today we understand that there are two big centers of almost the same size, one in Israel and one in North America, which are developing in different directions and conducting essentially different Jewish lifestyles: minority communities with a general society as opposed to a Jewish majority in a sovereign state that has other minorities.
“It seems that these two centers will be different forever and we have to find ways to connect them without falling into the growing gaps between them. Our future depends on the connection and support for a thriving Jewish life in the Diaspora – and these, in turn, depend on a strong State of Israel that inspires and serves as a source of spirituality.”
With regard to her role as CEO of The Jewish Agency, she concluded: “I believe that The Jewish Agency – the biggest Jewish organization in the world whose uniqueness lies in its being the domain of the Jewish people – has the built-in strength and the ability to act as a collective of the entire Jewish people. Therefore the connection between the parts of the Jewish people and guaranteeing the ties and mutual responsibility among Jews lies at the heart of our mission, and we understand that this is a two-way bridge.”