Becca Wertman

An Unbiased Review by a Biased Reviewer

Photo cedit: Rami Zarnegar
Photo Credit: Rami Zarnegar

Former Member of Knesset Michal Cotler-Wunsh should undoubtedly be the next head of the Jewish Agency.

Let me preface the following opinion piece with the fact that I indeed have an inherent bias, having worked as Michal’s political aide in the Knesset with her for almost a year’s time.

However, that being said, there are few people better qualified than myself to attest to her fit for the position – seen in her experience, her skills, and her true passion to help ensure the State of Israel realizes its potential and purpose.

The Jewish Agency describes its mission as providing “the global framework for Aliyah,” ensuring “global Jewish safety,” “strengthening Jewish identity,” “connecting Jews to Israel and one another,” and “conveying the voice of the Jewish People to the State of Israel to help shape its society.” The same statement could be used to describe what Michal would call her “vision, mission, and values” that drove her journey in Knesset.

In my unbiased opinion, Michal was the most vocal member of the Immigration, Integration, and Diaspora Affairs committee, leading numerous discussions alongside the Jewish Agency on the importance of fulfilling the promise of bringing those remaining in Ethiopia to Israel and on addressing bureaucratic obstacles facing new immigrants to Israel. She was the voice of Olim in the Knesset, reading through countless emails, Facebook messages, and other correspondence our office received, combining them into subjects, and raising them in every committee she could. When the skies where closed due to COVID-19 and the family members of Olim could not come to the country, it was Michal who went from the Immigration Committee, to the Law Committee, to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and any other Committee she could and to demand Olim be given the equal opportunity of all Israeli citizens to have their families by their side during times of need, while ensuring the public health.

Michal was also appointed to chair the Diaspora Subcommittee, where she provided a platform for the diaspora to have dialogue with the Jewish’s states elected officials. In one discussion, she brought almost the entire 2020 “JNS Top 40 Global Advocates for Israel Online” list to the Knesset (both virtually and in person) to both recognize their immense efforts on behalf of the State of Israel and to learn from them on where the State can improve in its efforts. In another discussion, she engaged Jewish student leaders from around the world to understand the issues they are experiencing and tackling on campus.

She also became known and involved on an international level with efforts to combat antisemitism on social media, founding the Inter-Parliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism with elected officials from Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Her remarks in a Knesset hearing with a Twitter representative went viral when she exposed the double standards in their hate policy that enable individuals like Ayatollah Khamenei to publish violent hatred targeting Jews.

Beyond her clear experience and passion for issues directly relating to the role of Chair of the Jewish Agency, Michal is qualified based on who she is – an individual so passionate and committed to ensuring the Jewish state thrives. Her background in international law and human rights further ensures her sophistication and ability to, as she would say, “speak the language of rights” in order to engage with diverse audiences about issues imperative to the Jewish people – whether in Israel or abroad. Her work on the “case and cause” to enable the return of Israel’s soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul and civilians Avera Mengistu and Hisham Al-Sayed from the hands of Hamas further demonstrates her perseverance and unwillingness to shy away from any challenge.

I could go on and on and provide example after example about discussions she led in the Knesset, time she spent meeting with diverse Olim communities, near-nightly Zoom discussions hosted with global diaspora communities, and more. However, at the end of the day, the selection of the Chair will be made by a small group of individuals who will be challenged to balance their own political interests with the interests of the Jewish people and State. Biased and unbiased, I can only hope that they recognize Michal lives and breathes the mission of the Jewish Agency and is the most qualified and best suited candidate to be the next chair of the organization.

About the Author
Becca Wertman-Traub is the Director of Research at the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), the advocacy agent of the Jewish Federations of Canada-UIA, representing Jewish Federations across Canada. Becca previously worked for Member of Knesset Michal Cotler-Wunsh as her Political Aide in Israel's 23rd Knesset and served as managing editor and was responsible for the Canada portfolio at NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institute. Born in Vancouver, Canada, Becca earned her BA in international relations from the University of Southern California and her MA in political science from Columbia University. Her articles have appeared in The National Post, The Hill Times, The Jerusalem Post, and the Macdonald Laurier Institute, among others.
Related Topics
Related Posts