Colette Avital currently serves as the Chairperson of the Center Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel.
Avital was born on 1 May 1940 in Bucharest. She lived with her family in Bacau, located in the northern section of Romania. As a child, Avital recalls how her family was forced to wear a yellow Star of David and that her father was severely tortured while being held hostage in the basement of City Hall. After being evicted them from their home by their oppressors, Avital and her mother sought refuge and hid in Bucharest. Following liberation, Avital learned that several of her extended family members were killed during the Second World War.
In 1950, 10-year-old Avital immigrated to Israel to Tel Aviv. After serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) she joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). Throughout her tenure at the MFA, Avital served in a variety of key diplomatic posts, including as Consul General of Israel in New York. In January 1999, she entered politics, beginning her career as a Knesset Member with the Labor Party. She went on to serve as Deputy Speaker of the 17th Knesset.
In the year 2000, Avital formed the Committee of Inquiry for the Location and Restitution of the Assets of Holocaust Victims. The Committee published its report in 2005. Subsequently, a law she initiated created an official institution for the restitution of these assets.
In 2015, Avital was elected Secretary General of the World Organization for the Recovery of Jewish Property. The following year, she became Secretary of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. In April 2017, she was elected Member of the Executive of the World Jewish Congress.
Since July 2013, Avital has served as Chairperson of the Center Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, which is the umbrella organization of 58 Holocaust survivor associations.
Avital received her MA in English Literature from the Universite de Montreal, an MPA from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and Honorary Doctorates from both the College of New Rochelle and Wellesley College.
She has been the recipient of several awards and recognitions, including the Légion d'honneur from the French government, the Cavaliere OMRI from the Italian government, the National Order for Merit from the King of Spain and the Gran Cruz do Infante, the highest order of the Portuguese government.