Natan Sharansky is presented a chess puzzle by Garry Kasparov Credit: Jonathan Levine
Avital Sharansky, President George W. Bush, Natan Sharansky, Sara Netanyahu and PM Benjamin Netanyahu
Credit: Jonathan Levine

The Jewish Agency for Israel recently celebrated the exceptional achievements of Natan Sharansky during his nine-year tenure as Chairman of the Executive. “An Evening of Storytelling to Celebrate with Natan Sharansky,” saw special guests former U.S. President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lead tributes to the iconic figure who went from Soviet prisoner, to Israeli politician, to head of the global Jewish people.

“Nine years ago, I believed he was the right man to lead The Jewish Agency, which he has done ably serving as a great unifying force for Jews everywhere,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “We gather here this evening to say two words: Thank you – thank you for your service to the Jewish people, thank you for your service to the Jewish State and thank you for your service to the cause of freedom. Thank you Natan Sharansky, may you continue to serve our people and our great cause.”

Natan Sharansky dances with shlichim following the launch of The Shlichut Institute
Credit: Jonathan Levine

Marking the next chapter in the story of its celebrated leader, The Jewish Agency also launched The Shlichut Institute, an all-encompassing center for providing Jewish Agency Israeli emissaries (shlichim) with ongoing training, tools, and technology, and with Sharansky as its Founding Chair. Under Sharansky’s leadership, The Jewish Agency has championed groundbreaking initiatives that foster greater unity and connectedness in the Jewish world, and the shlichut program, which sends Israeli emissaries to connect Jews around the world to Israel and to one another, is at the center of that mission. The Shlichut Institute will create an online community in which emissaries are always connected and training no matter where they live.

“The main idea is not to make this event about my achievements,” Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency said. “The main idea to make sure that there will be more and more shlichim bringing Israel closer to the Jewish people and the Jewish people closer to Israel.”

Dozens of shlichim working in North American communities marked The Shlichut Institute’s launch by joining the celebrations with tributes to Sharansky. A highlight of the evening included a conversation on Democracy and Freedom between George W. Bush and Sharansky, moderated by journalist and newscaster Paula Zahn. In addition to the former U.S. President and PM Benjamin Netanyahu, other notable guests included Dinner Chairs Jim and Merryl Tisch, Honorary Chairs Sheldon and Dr. Miri Adelson, and Yuli Edelstein, Speaker of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament).

The evening’s presenters recounted how their lives have been influenced by Sharansky and the qualities that characterize him – tenacity, faith, humor, optimism, chutzpah, and courage. Through it all, Sharansky has embodied The Jewish Agency’s goal of creating, maintaining and growing unbreakable bonds between Israel and the Jewish people as well as between all Jews wherever they call home. A trending hashtag, #CelebrateWithNatan, also allowed for everyone around the world to share their Jewish story and take part in this celebration.

A conversation on Democracy and Freedom between George W. Bush and Natan Sharansky, moderated by journalist and newscaster Paula Zahn
Credit: Jonathan Levine

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