For the First Time, a Woman Is Frontrunner for CEO Job at Jewish Agency

Amira Aharonovich is a leading candidate for CEO and director general of the Jewish Agency, which focuses mainly on building ties between Israel and Jewish Diaspora communities

File Photo: Isaac Herzog, chairman of the Jewish Agency, July 2016.
Moti Milrod

For the first time in history, a woman stands a good chance of filling the top professional position at the Jewish Agency.

A leading candidate for the job of CEO and director general, Haaretz has learned, is Amira Aharonovich, who currently serves as deputy director general and chief operating officer of the 90-year-old organization.

Up until recent years, the primary function of the Jewish Agency was to promote immigration to Israel. Nowadays, it focuses mainly on building and strengthening ties between Israel and Jewish communities in the Diaspora.

Alan Hoffmann, the current CEO and director general, will retire at the end of this month. He has held the position since March 2010. Hoffman notified the Jewish Agency Board of Governors of his intention to retire in March, but a replacement for him has yet to be announced.

Aharonovich has been employed at the Jewish Agency in various managerial positions over the past 22 years. She is a graduate of the Mandel Educational Leadership Institute in Jerusalem and holds a master’s degree in business management.

Asked for comment, Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog would not confirm or deny that Aharonovich is the frontrunner. “We did not even get the analysis from the search firm, and they are doing dozens of interviews so how can anyone be leading?” he wrote in response to a query from Haaretz. “There are VERY strong candidates and they are all [being] reviewed.”

Hoffmann’s stint as CEO and director general coincided almost entirely with that of Natan Sharansky, the previously chairman, who stepped down in the summer. Before joining the Jewish Agency in 2000 as director of its education department, Hoffmann headed various Jewish educational programs. Among other positions, Hoffman served as director of the Melton Center for Jewish Education at the Hebrew University and executive director of the Council for Initiatives in Jewish Education (CIJE) in New York.

Born in South Africa, Hoffmann was the first immigrant to hold this position.