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Gelt Complex: WJC Taps New Official, Young Leaders Summit, Gordis To Step Down

WJC Taps New Official

The newly elected president of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder, has reportedly tapped a B’nai B’rith executive to assume the controversy-laden post of secretary general at the WJC, the representative body of world Jewry.

Daniel Mariaschin, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International, is set to take over the post as Lauder is pledging to rebuild the troubled organization, which has been plagued in recent years by allegations of financial mismanagement and bouts of vicious infighting. Mariaschin, a widely respected figure in the Jewish communal world, is slated to replace Stephen Herbits, who is seen by many as a divisive character largely responsible for the recent ouster of Israel Singer, the WJC’s longtime professional leader.

Mariaschin’s selection was first reported last week in The Jerusalem Post. It has yet to be confirmed by WJC officials.

Lauder did not respond to requests for comment. A B’nai B’rith spokeswoman declined to comment. Part of the reason for the lack of public information, insiders say, is that Lauder does not yet have a publicity apparatus for making the announcement.

Herbits remains in his post, even as Mariaschin has reportedly been asked to take over his responsibilities. Herbits’s ongoing role at the WJC is even more striking, given last month’s resignation of his boss and closest ally, former WJC president Edgar Bronfman.

Jewish communal leaders praised Mariaschin, who has worked his way up through the ranks of Jewish organizational life.

“Dan is a longtime leader in the Jewish community, has tremendous skills both in diplomacy and knowledge of government, and he has the tools to succeed,” said Bobby Brown, a former director of the WJC’s Israel office and an adversary of the old administration. “My greatest wish is that he can bring together some of the factions that have been fighting over the last three years.”

— Rebecca Spence

Young Leaders Summit

A total of 120 young Jewish leaders gathered in Israel last week in an effort to create what organizers called a “global community of Jewish social entrepreneurs.”

The participants in the Global Summit for Young Jewish Innovators were chosen from 450 applicants, and included Israeli ecological farmers, a campus director in Ukraine, a Canadian filmmaker and the organizer of educational projects in El Salvador.

High-profile guests included Californian Jeremy Kossen, who created JewTube (a Jewish version of YouTube), and Yitz Jordan, a Brooklyn-based hip-hop artist known as Y-Love.

Participants had a choice of specializing in community service, environmental activism, media, youth education or Israel advocacy. They all received multimedia lessons and attended classes on how to raise funds and pitch projects to foundations.

The event was hosted by an initiative called Return on Investment, which is sponsored by Birthright Israel and by the newly created Center for Leadership Initiatives.

Lynn Schusterman, founder and chair of the center, said, “Our assumption is that the participants’ exposure to each other will foster contacts and promote extraordinary networks of collaboration.”

— Claire Levenson

Gordis To Step Down

Rabbi David Gordis, president of Hebrew College in Massachusetts, announced that he will be stepping down after 14 years at the helm of the transdenominational Jewish university.

Gordis’s tenure at Hebrew College has been marked by tremendous growth. Under his presidency, the school’s budget grew to $16 million from $1.5 million, and the student body grew to more than 4,000 from around 200. Among other innovative initiatives begun by Gordis were a transdenominational rabbinical school and a cantor-education program.

Recently, though, the college has hit some rocky patches. This past year, several full-time jobs at Hebrew College were eliminated as part of “a necessary restructuring,” according to Gordis.

In university-heavy Boston, Gordis put a particular emphasis on forging partnerships with other local universities. Six years ago, he moved Hebrew College onto the campus of Andover Newton Theological School, and Hebrew College now has cross-registration agreements with many Boston-area schools.

Just a few days after announcing his retirement, Gordis announced a new partnership with nearby Northeastern University. He was intimately involved in the planning of the new partnership with Northeastern. According to Northeastern president Joseph Aoun, the agreement means that “everything will be open” to students at both schools.

Hebrew College’s board of directors is searching for a new president and is expected to have one ready to assume the role when Gordis steps down next June.

— Eric Schwartz


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