Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced on Wednesday that his Yes Atid party’s candidate for head of the Jewish agency would be Ruth Calderon, a former centrist faction legislator.
“Dr. Ruth Calderon is a role model who can represent us in the Jewish Agency with her in-depth knowledge of Jewish history and the challenges of the future,” Lapid said in a statement.
Calderon is a longtime Jewish teacher, Talmud scholar, and founder of Israel’s first Center for Secular Studies. He served in the Knesset from 2013 to 2015.
Calderon chose Yesh Atid as head of the Jewish Agency, replacing Intelligence Minister Eleazar Stern. Stern withdrew his candidacy amid controversy over comments that suggested he had ignored anonymous complaints – possibly including claims of sexual harassment – while serving as the head of the IDF’s manpower directorate.
Former Yesh Atid MK joins a crowded field of candidates, including former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Danny Dannon, former expatriate minister Omar Yankelevich, former Kulanu MK and former Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren, former Blue and White MK Michael Kotler included. Wunsh and Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum.
The committee to select the next Jewish agency head has begun inviting potential contenders for job interviews.
A source in Yash Atid told The Times of Israel that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party is also expected to extend its support behind Calderon, which could give the former MP an edge over other candidates.
While the selection committee is not required to choose a candidate supported by the government, it does take into account the recommendation of the coalition.
It is believed a final decision will be made by February when the Jewish Agency Board of Governors meets.
The governing body consists of 10 people – five members of the World Zionist Organization, three representatives of the Jewish Associations of North America and two representatives of the Keren Hesod-United Israel Appeal.
The previous head of the Jewish Agency, Isaac Herzog, Israel’s President Elected in June.