THE Jewish community has presented outgoing Israeli ambassador Mark Sofer and his wife Sara with a parting gift – a fellowship in their names that will enable an Australian student to do tertiary studies in Israel.
News of the fellowship came amid reports on Tuesday that Sofer’s successor will be high-ranking diplomat Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the UN since 2015. According to Israeli media, the appointment of Danon – a former deputy defence minister who has spoken out against the two-state solution – is yet to be formally approved.
The fellowship honouring the Sofers will provide $10,000 to a selected student towards tertiary studies, most likely in cybersecurity – a field close to Sofer’s heart – or in international relations, hopefully from the second half of 2021, depending on the pandemic.
At an online event farewelling the couple on Tuesday evening, Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) president Jillian Segal announced the Mark and Sara Sofer Fellowship, which will be sponsored by ECAJ, the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) and the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC).
“It’s a hope that this fellowship not only conveys our gratitude to you and Sara but will serve to continue the work that you started and did so well here in Australia,” said Segal.
ZFA president Jeremy Leibler said, “Mark cultivated relationships with senior people in the government and opposition, which gave him ready access whenever he wanted or needed it. He formed relationships with Israel’s friends in Parliament but also with her critics. He won the respect of leading decision-makers, journalists and newspaper editors – including those who vehemently disagreed with him.
“Mark, though not specifically noted in your impressive biography, perhaps one of your greatest attributes is that you’re a true mensch.”
AIJAC chairman Mark Leibler said, “There is more than one way a diplomat can go about representing the interests of the government they serve – they can parrot the official line or they can convey it more subtly, more intelligently, with nuance, that takes account of the situation and the personalities on the ground. Mark is a true master of this art.”