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Australia rejoins WJC

The top body of Australian Jewry has decided to rejoin the World Jewish Congress following the election of Ronald Lauder as its new president. The Executive Council of Australian Jewry severed its ties with the WJC last July after its ultimatum that the New York-based federation drop its libel suit against former Australian Jewish leader Isi Leibler went unheeded. Leibler, a former WJC senior vice president, became the organization’s arch critic in 2004 when he began leading a crusade to reveal alleged financial improprieties at the organization. Many of his accusations were vindicated by the New York state attorney general’s report in January 2006. Executive Council President Grahame Leonard, who was in New York with Leibler last weekend, stated in his July 25, 2006 letter to then-WJC President Edgar Bronfman that Australia would only consider rejoining the WJC if the organization improved its corporate governance. The council backed the election of Lauder, an American cosmetics heir, who defeated Mendel Kaplan of South Africa in Sunday’s vote by the WJC board of governors. Kaplan was believed to be associated with the former WJC leadership that included Rabbi Israel Singer, who was sacked as Bronfman’s deputy amid accusations of financial impropriety.