Ronald Lauder was elected interim president of the World Jewish Congress Sunday.
The organization's executive committee voted 11-4, by open ballot, to recommend Lauder, the president of the Jewish National Fund, to the WJC board of governors, moving him one step closer to the office. The board then confirmed Lauder as the successor to Edgar Bronfman, who is retiring after 30 years as president.
Lauder defeated Mendel Kaplan, the South African steel magnate who is chairman of the WJC executive and former chairman of the Jewish Agency's Board of Trustees, 59-17. Others in the race were Einat Wilf, an Israeli activist and writer, and Vladimir Herzberg, a Russian-Israeli nuclear physicist. Only Herzberg was not in attendance at the New York vote.
Lauder was running on a ticket with Bronfman's son, Matthew, the chairman of the WJC's finance committee. Matthew Bronfman was elected chairman of the group's governing board, in a vote also held Sunday.
Lauder, who first announced his interest in the job in an interview with Haaretz, said he would rehabilitate the organization, which has been in deep crisis following revelations of irregularities and corruption.
Lauder is a Republican who is identified with the Israeli right. He is the owner of the Estee Lauder cosmetics empire, founded by his mother, and his personal wealth is estimated at $2.7 billion.
The interim president will serve until 2009, when the WJC holds its next plenary and selects a permanent president.
The WJC, founded in 1936 in Geneva, is an umbrella organization with representatives from Jewish communities in 80 countries, including Israel