Lauder elected WJC president
Ronald S. Lauder tells executive meeting: Let's make WJC glorious again
Ronald S. Lauder has been elected president of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) following a vote taken Sunday night.
During a meeting of the WJC, broadcast live on the internet, Lauder received 11 votes. His main rival, South African steel magnate Mendel Kaplan, received four votes. In accordance with WJC election procedures, a second meeting of members of the organization's governing board will meet to either approve Lauder as president, or introduce other candidates. Lauder's campaign to become president was joined by Mathew Bronfman, the son of the WJC's outgoing president, Edgar Bronfman. Einat Wilf, an Israeli activist and author, also ran in the elections, as did Vladimir Herzberg, a Russian-Israeli nuclear scientist. Addressing the committee before votes were taken, the candidates spelled out why they thought they deserved to lead the organization. "I've been Involved in Jewish life since 1986," Lauder said. He recounted how he was approached by the ailing head of the Jewish community in Austria, where he served as the American ambassador, and asked to become head of the community. "I told him, the guard in front of the embassy knows more about Judaism than I did," Lauder said.
"I was invited to a Jewish community meeting, where I sat in the back of the room and listened to 50 Jews fighting," Lauder said, drawing a parallel with the current state of the WJC. He told how he became drawn to Jewish life, and how he helped lead the JNF out of debt. "I absolutely feel this is a critical time, a time of leadership. It’s also a time of education. Unless we educate young kids on how to maintain their Jewish identity, we're lost," he said. "This is such an important organization… let's do everything we can to make this what it was, glorious," Lauder added, receiving applause.
'To lead, not just to receive'
Mendel Kaplan spoke next, saying: "I didn't come into Judaism or Zionism as student or an ambassador, I was born into it."
"I have learned that personal identity of a Jew was enhanced by State of Israel, it is not in competition with the State of Israel. And the national identity of Israelis is advanced by fact that Israel is not only a Levantine state, but also represents Diaspora Jews," Kaplan said. He said the WJC had to "resolve once and for all of the internal confrontation that almost created a meltdown situation. It’s how we go about handling this organization and treating individuals, how you speak to people, deal with them... that more than anything else will determine the future of WJC." Einat Wilf said it was time for Israel to receive the reigns to the leadership of the Jewish world. "I took a step that is quite rare for Israelis - to try and get to know the Jewish community (abroad)," she said. "I came from the belief that with so many Jews living in Israel, the time has come for a new generation of Israelis to assume responsibility for the Jewish world. To lead, not just to receive," she added.