The World Jewish Congress mourns the passing of its former secretary-general and long-time head of the WJC Israel office Avi Beker, who died Wednesday at the age of 64 after a battle with cancer.
WJC President Ronald S. Lauder declared: “Avi Beker served the WJC with great distinction. He was instrumental in implementing the WJC’s efforts for the restitution of property looted from Jews by the Nazis during World War II, and he was a key figure in promoting dialogue and understanding between America and Israel. He was also a distinguished scholar whose practical advice on matters of international diplomacy was sought by statesmen.
"A prolific writer on so many subjects, Avi’s voice will be sorely missed. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Avi’s wife Zvia and their children. May they be comforted among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”
Beker was born in Tel Aviv in 1951. After serving in the Israel Defense Forces he graduated from Tel Aviv University and obtained a PhD in political science from the City University of New York. He was a member of the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations from 1977 to 1982.
Beker joined the World Jewish Congress in 1985 and served as executive director of the WJC Israel office until 2001 and as WJC international relations director from 1998 to 2001. In November 2001, he was appointed by the WJC Plenary Assembly in Jerusalem as WJC secretary-general, becoming the most senior staff member of the organization.
Avi Beker helped to establish the Israel Council on Foreign Relations, a foreign policy think-tank that operates under the auspices of the WJC, and served as the council’s first executive director. He also headed the Institute of the World Jewish Congress from 1994 to 2003.
After leaving the WJC in November 2003, he headed the Jewish Public Policy Project and the UN–Israel Institute at the Hartog School of Government and Policy in Tel Aviv and also served as Goldman Visiting Professor at the Department of Government at Georgetown University, Washington, DC, and as a lecturer in diplomacy and international law at Tel Aviv University.
Avi Beker published a number of books and countless articles in newspapers and journals.
He also served on the Board of Directors of the Jewish Diaspora museum Beit Hatfutsot and of Israel’s Holocaust Memorial institute Yad Vashem.