A Congress for Our Times

Opinion

By Ronald S. Lauder

Published June 01, 2007, issue of June 01, 2007.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Has the World Jewish Congress’s time come and gone? That’s a question people have asked me again and again over the past few months. I answer: Given world events, always remembering our history, it is vital that we focus on the future and move the WJC forward together.

The WJC must be brought back to the magnificent organization that Edgar Bronfman built up over the past two and a half decades. Under Edgar’s able and farsighted leadership, the WJC won victories of truly historic proportion. It advanced the cause of the Jewish people throughout the world, and that must continue. There are specific reasons why this is so vital today.

In my philanthropic work throughout Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, I have seen Jewish communities that need hope. In 70 years, they have been buffeted first by Nazism and then by communism. Today, they look to us for help. They need the World Jewish Congress to protect them when they cannot protect themselves. There is no greater goal for this organization to accomplish. That is why it was formed seven decades ago: to protect Jewish communities that were in peril. The locations may have changed, but the problems have not. Whether there are Jews in Eastern Europe or the former Soviet Union or Latin America that need our help, the WJC should be there for them.

It should also be clear to anyone who reads a newspaper or watches television that something has changed in the world. After the end of World War II and the exposure of the Holocaust, the world placed a moratorium on openly displayed acts of antisemitism. Six decades later, that ban on open Jew-hatred seems to have disappeared. We see it on satellite television and in cartoons that rival anything put out in the Third Reich. The WJC should be at the forefront of this struggle. We need to speak with a unified voice that is international in scope to combat this resurgence of antisemitism. In this regard, the WJC is uniquely positioned to lead this important fight that should be at the top of our agenda.

It is also important not to shrink from important truths. The World Jewish Congress has been distracted by disputes that have injured its reputation and its ability to fully function. Now, we must show Jews and non-Jews that the WJC is much more than a scandal — and that it is certainly more than one individual. It is imperative that this historic and unique organization be synonymous with honesty and forthrightness. We need to bring transparency to its books and truthfulness to all its dealings. People need to know that when they are dealing with the WJC, its word will be as good as gold.

When I took charge of the Jewish National Fund, that great organization was also mired in scandal. Nine years later, the JNF is one of the most exemplary charitable institutions in the world. This dramatic turnaround came about not by magic and not by wishing the problems away. It was accomplished by bringing in new and younger people and setting a zero-tolerance policy for anything that is not completely honest and above board.

There have been times over the past 60 years when having strong leadership at the helm of the World Jewish Congress was important but not vital. This is not one of those times. Some have said that the world is as dangerous today as it was in 1938. That may or may not be true, but the following is absolutely true: The worst thing we could do right now as a people would be to wallow in factional fighting. Working together as one unified people, we can accomplish miracles. We have done this in the past — many times. And we can and must do it again.

Ronald S. Lauder is president of the Jewish National Fund and a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. He is a declared candidate for the presidency of the World Jewish Congress.






Find us on Facebook!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.