Jewish Agency's Stalwart Spokesman Jankelowitz Retiring After 33 Years

Michael Jankelowitz, one of the Jewish Agency's "best spokesmen ever," according to chairman Natan Sharansky, is leaving the organization, after 33 years working there in different positions, most recently as spokesman to the foreign press.

Jankelowitz, who is widely respected for his broad knowledge of the inner workings of the Jewish organizational world, accepted an offer for early retirement.

"It's been a real privilege working for the Jewish Agency, but I am not leaving the Jewish world," Jankelowitz, 55, told Anglo File, adding that he will continue consulting organizations and public relations companies.

Born in Johannesburg and raised in Port Elizabeth, Jankelowitz immigrated to Israel in 1971. In 1978 he joined the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization.

"He brought fresh wind to the Zionist movement," said Dror Zeigerman, who headed the WZO's student division and in 1978 made Jankelowitz his right hand man. Jankelowitz was instrumental in making Jewish student unions embrace the Zionist cause, which in the 1970s could not be taken for granted, Zeigerman added. "Michael was a central player in the World Union of Jewish Students' decision to join the Zionist enterprise and transfer its headquarters from London to Jerusalem," he said.

"Before I started working in the establishment in 1978, I was international secretary for the National Union of Israel Students," Jankelowitz recalled. "One of the big themes we worked on in these days was opening the gates of the Iron Curtain. One of the leading refuseniks and later prisoner of Zion who we all worked for was Natan Sharansky. It's very moving for me that the last person I worked for in the Jewish Agency is Natan Sharansky. Every time I sit with him when he gives interviews, I remember that this man spent almost 10 years in a Russian gulag. I've come full circle."

Sharansky, too, is appreciative of Jankelowitz. "He was a great asset to the Jewish Agency," he told Anglo File. "He was one of the best spokesmen for aliyah, Israel and the Jewish people ever."