Natan Sharansky, hero of the Soviet Jewry movement and former head of the Jewish Agency, is recovering from a rough case of COVID-19. Sharansky, 73, who served in several top positions in the Israeli government and Knesset, contracted the virus despite being fully vaccinated in Israel eight months ago.
In a brief post on Facebook Friday, Sharansky confirmed that he and his wife Avital are recovering from COVID-19, thanking those who had offered help and expressed concern. “We are happy to report that we are slowly growing stronger and hope to go on improving,” Sharansky wrote. A friend who visited Sharansky on Friday said that he “looks like himself” again.
Sharansky, according to an aide, tested positive for COVID-19 upon landing at Ben Gurion Airport on July 22, following a brief two-day visit to Washington, DC. He suffered body aches and had a high temperature. Sharansky was taken to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, where he received Regeneron treatment by IV and showed signs of improvement within two days. He is now recovering at home.
The former prisoner of Zion noted in his post Friday that both he and his wife were fully vaccinated and “learned from experience just how much the vaccine’s effects can decay over time.” Shranaksy ended with a call to “strengthen your body with a third shot, and may we beat this plague together.”
Sharansky, who now serves as chair of the Institute for Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP), was in Washington for a discussion on antisemitism with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. After the meeting, the State Department issued a statement referring to Sharansky as a “renowned human rights defender” and detailing the topics of their discussion.
According to a source knowledgeable of Sharansky’s meetings in Washington, the State Department was informed about Sharansky’s COVID status shortly after he was diagnosed.
During his brief visit to Washington, Sharansky also met with a diverse group of Jewish leaders to discuss the issue of antisemitism and American Jews’ response to the increase in antisemitic incidents.
“He started by saying how great it was to see everyone in person after a year of Zoom meetings,” recalled Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, chair of the Zionist Rabbinical Coalition, who convened the meeting at Sharansky’s request. The event took place at the Willard Hotel, next to the White House, and was attended by roughly a dozen Jewish leaders from all walks of Jewish American life. Participants, according to Weinblatt, included heads of the Jewish Republican and Jewish Democratic organizations, Florida Rep. Ted Deutch, Rabbi David Saperstein, who formerly headed the Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center and served in the Obama administration, David Bernstein who headed the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, former Bush and Trump White House official Elliott Abrams, and former Bill Clinton White House communications director Ann Lewis.
“Sharansky told me he was worried about the lack of unity in the Jewish community on antisemitism and anti-Zionism and asked me to arrange the meeting,” said Weinblatt, who serves as senior rabbi of Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Potomac, Maryland.
All participants of the meeting were informed that Sharansky tested positive for COVID-19 and none have reported getting sick after the meeting.