Dr. Efrat Sopher is a foreign policy advisor, scholar, lawyer and diplomat. She helps lead The Ezri Centre for Iran and Gulf States Research. She also serves on the Executive Committee of the HMS Haifa Maritime Policy and Strategy Research Centre working alongside international heads of navies and strategic scholars. She is a Jewish Diplomat with the World Jewish Congress under WJC president Ronald Lauder.
We're proud to feature Dr. Sopher and shine a light on the vital global work she does which has always been critical but is even more so in the world we are living in today. She is walking how she wants with grace and power. Read her conversation with Elle to find out why we're inspired by the legacy she is creating.
Elle: Your grandfather Rabi Meir Ezri left an incredible legacy and I was so proud to learn that he was Iranian when we first spoke. He was the Israeli ambassador to Iran, was awarded the highest decoration, the “Taj” by the Shah of Iran, founded the "World Organization of Iranian Jews" and the Ezri Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies at the University of Haifa. This is not even half of it. I know you are proud of his legacy and you are carrying the torch today through everything you are doing. What was his influence in your life? Did it inspire you to pursue this career path?
Dr. Efrat: My grandfather taught me to be unashamedly proud of my heritage and identity. He used his many talents to bring people together and I emulate this in all my professional and diplomatic dealings. He always had the confidence to be himself and did his utmost to do what is right and good - this is now my motto as I seek grace, truth and love. My grandfather never forgot his Iranian and Jewish heritage when representing Israel in Iran. This may sound a little philosophical in my rather real politick line of work.
Another priceless lesson I learned from my grandfather is the power of faith and connecting with people on a human level.This was the key message in my Doctorate where I discussed Israel’s relations with Iran before the Islamic Revolution and the power of human relationships to forge foreign policy. I charted very methodically the way that trust and connections between people have extremely tangible added value to foreign policy. I would even venture to say that it can save lives and change the course of history.
I am humbled by the thought that I am carrying his torch and his legacy. He is one of the greatest influences in my life. He always took a keen and warm interest in my education and my professional development. I was always by his side as a child and remember him talking me through what was being discussed, pointing out important facets to note, encouraging me to make speeches and to never forget my responsibility to represent our people.
I like to believe that he is by my side now guiding my path. He is without a doubt the inspiration behind the course of my career. He encouraged me to soar as high as possible - first by becoming a lawyer with grounded analytical skills and then to continue my international relations training. I practice the lessons that my grandfather taught me daily.
Elle: I saw a powerful video of you at the United Nations Human Rights Council speaking on behalf of the World Jewish Congress. You delivered such a powerful message with confidence and grace. Can you tell me about this moment and what it meant for you to represent the World Jewish Congress?
Dr. Efrat: One of the greatest moments of my life so far was to speak on behalf of the World Jewish Congress at the United Nations Human Rights Council. The WJC is the representative body of Jewish Communities from over 100 countries worldwide. It was a huge honour to represent my nation and to use my voice to alert the world to the clear and present danger posed by anti Semitic racism and hate. I felt like I was able to play an active part in something much bigger than myself. It was also a great opportunity to meet people at the UN who would not have otherwise connected with Jews and related to them on a human level.
Elle: I imagine you have to use your power softly and wisely given the work you do and that often you are the only or one of few women present. What can you share about your experience reading a room and delivering powerful messages.
Dr. Efrat: As a woman, the responsibility is even greater in the situations where I find myself. Reading a room must be almost a superpower for women because we must trust our intuition yet remain open to what we can learn from a situation. It is also important to be aware of any preconceived perceptions that people may have. Soft power is something that I have learned from the female role models in my life. My grandmother has taught me that gift because of her sensitivity to people, and her diplomacy using soft power. Golda Meir, Israel’s former Prime Minister, who was a dear friend of my grandfather touches on it in her brilliant autobiography “My Life”. I also believe that women can deliver powerful messages in their own feminine way. This is possible even in male dominated industries. Confidence is also part of femininity that we must remember. We must also always respect our counterparts.
Elle: What have you learnt about people through your international relations work?
Dr. Efrat: I have learned that everyone wants to be seen and understood. This counts for Prime Ministers, Empresses, admirals, as well as students starting their journeys.
Elle: What’s been your biggest lesson thus far from 2020?
Dr. Efrat: 2020 has delivered a master class for us all in resilience and flexibility. The horrific pandemic has also taught us about how truly connected we all are and how we all treasure life. As members of states and communities, we have all had to move heaven and earth to strengthen connections to work together to beat the pandemic while maintaining the welfare of the more vulnerable among our communities. The brilliant Viktor Frankl explains in “Man’s Search for Meaning” that by connecting with our life’s purpose and meaning we can navigate any situation and hopefully be helpful to those around us.
Elle: What makes you feel alive?
Dr. Efrat: Learning and making a difference. Connecting with people and influencing outcomes against the odds.
Elle: What’s your favorite book?
Dr. Efrat: Psalms written by King David - the poet, warrior, peace maker and inspiring leader who never lost faith. It is my constant companion. Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning was recommended by a dear friend and has changed my life.
Elle: What do you love about yourself?
Dr. Efrat: What I practice daily is trusting the process and the journey.
Elle: Share one thing about yourself that we can’t find on Google.
Dr. Efrat: I adore fashion! It is one of my creative outlets and inspires me always. I believe that if we are comfortable with the way we present ourselves to the world, we can walk how we want much more confidently.
I have recently come back to playing my harp-It has sat idly for years, and I feel it’s time to revisit her and fill the house with her music. Music plays a very big part of my life wherever I am and whatever I am doing.
Elle: What does Walk How You Want mean to you?
Dr. Efrat: Walk how you want means to me trusting my journey that has brought me to where I am today. It means that the journey may not be the most standard or conventional of routes, but if it has purpose and meaning it makes the destination worthwhile. It means honouring the generations before us while walking our own unique path.