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The Claims Conference’s annual meeting is often a tense affair as board members debate how best to spend hundreds of millions of dollars for survivors and Holocaust education. This year’s meeting begins in New York on July 9, with the election of officers.
Kramer is one representative of more than 20 Jewish organizations from around the world that have seats on the board. His response adds to a growing number of board members who have publicly criticized the Claims Conference’s handling of the fallout from the letter.
In recent weeks, Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, sent several pointed questions about the handling of the fraud to Berman.
Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Stefanie Seltzer, president of the World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust, and Samuel Norich, a representative of the Jewish Labor Committee, have called for an independent investigation into how the letter was dealt with by Claims Conference officials. (Norich is president of the Forward Association, which publishes the Forward.)
Another group, the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants, called for an independent review or, at the very least, an investigation by the Claims Conference ombudsman Shmuel Hollander.
Berman established a four-man committee in May to look into how top officials, including him, handled the letter. That committee commissioned a report by the ombudsman Hollander, which has been completed but has not been passed on to board members.
“I would like to formally ask you to move discussion of the Ombudsman’s Report to the first day as the first substantive business item, following the formal election of Claims Conference board members,” Kramer wrote in his email.
“After all, we are discussing the most severe issue the organization is facing. We should not get into any other business, before we have discussed and concluded on this matter.” Kramer added: “This is also a question of trust in the leadership of the Claims Conference – trust by the Jewish world and beyond it.”
The Forward, along with the New York Jewish Week, has requested permission to attend and report on the annual meeting. The request was denied.
Berman said in a statement: “It is the longstanding policy of the Claims Conference that its meetings of the Board of Directors are not open to the public. As in the past, meetings of the Claims Conference Board of Directors are closed to the public in order that members of the board may feel free to speak openly.
Berman added: “There are often very frank, prolonged discussions where differences of opinion are exchanged and there may be members of the board who would not want to speak in such a manner if they knew that the meetings were open to the public and the media.”