Source of WJC Leak a Mystery

By Nathaniel Popper

Published March 30, 2007, issue of March 30, 2007.

As the controversy over the firing of top officials at the World Jewish Congress entered its third week, much of the focus was on a topic that seems to riddle all national debates these days: the source of a leaked document.

The document in question was a letter written March 14 by the president of the WJC, Edgar Bronfman. In it, he accuses Rabbi Israel Singer, his longtime lieutenant, of helping “himself to cash from the WJC office, my cash,” of “playing games with his hotel bill” and of not paying taxes. A few days later, excerpts from the letter appeared in a number of news stories, triggering vehement denials from Singer and back-and-forth accusations about which side leaked the material to the media.

The secretary general at the WJC, Stephen Herbits, said that Pierre Besnainou, president of the European Jewish Congress, was the only one to whom Bronfman had sent the letter. Herbits claims that Besnainou must have supplied the letter to Singer, who then leaked it to the press.

“Even though it condemned him, it made him look like the person who is the victim,” Herbits said. “That is Singer’s style. I am telling you categorically that Mr. Bronfman did not distribute the letter.”

After hearing of Herbits’s claim, Besnainou said, “It is completely false.” He declared, “I categorically state that I did not ‘leak’ this private letter to anyone and made this very clear to Stephen Herbits when we spoke in Caracas,” where the two men met last week.

The mystery unravels as both the Israeli and European branches of the WJC are battling with Bronfman and Herbits over the recent firings. Herbits announced that there would be a meeting of the WJC’s steering committee May 7 to discuss the recent dustup.

A larger WJC governing board meeting is scheduled for June. There has been talk that Bronfman will step down as WJC president, allowing for an election at that time. One of the most prominent candidates has been Bronfman’s son, Matthew. But this week, Herbits said, “Mr. Bronfman may or may not tell them he is retiring.”



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