Lapid Names Ruth Calderon as His Candidate for Jewish Agency Chief

A Talmudic scholar and former lawmaker, Calderon announced as candidate to replace Isaac Herzog as head of the agency

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Ruth Calderon speaks at the Knesset, 2013.
Ruth Calderon speaks at the Knesset, 2013.Credit: Michal Fattal
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid named former lawmaker Ruth Calderon as candidate for Jewish Agency chairperson on Wednesday.   

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Calderon, who served in the Knesset as a member of Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, founded the first secular bet hamidrash (hall of Torah study) in Israel and the Alma secular Jewish studies center. She holds a doctorate in Talmudic Literature from the Hebrew University and is now a senior faculty member at the Mandel Leadership Institute.

The post had been filled by Isaac Herzog until he was selected as Israel’s president earlier this year.

Calderon is also the author of books aiming to make the Talmud accessible to the general public, and edited and hosted a television program in which guests studied and discussed Jewish texts with her.

“Dr. Ruth Calderon is a role model who will represent us at the Jewish Agency with a deep knowledge of Jewish history and the challenges of the future,” Lapid said.

Other candidates in the running for the position included the former Diaspora affairs minister, Omer Yankelevich of the Kahol Lavan party; former Haifa mayor Yona Yahav; the board chairperson of the ANU Museum of the Jewish People, Irina Nevzlin; former Knesset member Uzi Dayan; former Israeli UN ambassador Danny Danon; and Jerusalem city councilwoman Fleur Hassan-Nahoum.

A month ago, the Jewish Agency announced that it was delaying the election of a new chairperson after Elazar Stern, the intelligence affairs minister, who was considered a leading candidate for chairman, withdrew.

His withdrawal followed controversy over comments that he made about shredding anonymous sexual harassment complaints that he received while he headed the Israeli army’s Manpower Directorate.

Judy Maltz and Noa Spiegel contributed to this report.

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