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Lauder Outlines His Qualifications to Restore Wjc Back to Greatness


Since the end of World War II, there may have been times when the World Jewish Congress was important but not vital. This is not one of those times.

If you pick up a newspaper on any given day, you know why. There is a real — not an imagined — upsurge in anti-Semitism around the world. And because this rekindled virus is international in its scope, it requires an international organization to confront it. For this reason alone, a strong, vital and energetic WJC is necessary to stand up to this frightening turn of events and there is no organization better situated to deal with it than the WJC.

I am running for the presidency of the WJC because I believe in bringing it back to the magnificent organization that Edgar Bronfman created over the past two-and-a-half decades. Since 1979, Edgar’s able and far-sighted leadership has led to victories that have been truly historic. It has advanced the cause of the Jewish people throughout the world and that must continue.

There are specific reasons why this is so vital today. I have spent the last 20 years traveling on behalf of the Jewish people across the globe, seeing firsthand what our communities are facing, from the tiniest towns in Kazakhstan to the modern metropolis of Tel Aviv.

Because of what I saw back in 1987 when I served as the U.S. ambassador to Austria, I founded the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation as an answer to a large population of Jews that did not understand what it meant to be Jewish. Since then, the foundation has created 37 day schools, kindergartens and summer camps throughout Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Because of these schools, thousands of young Jews have had their first encounter with their traditions and their people and we have seen a resurgence of Judaism where Judaism was thought to be extinct.

However, I continue to see Jewish communities that need hope. Today they look to us for help. They need the World Jewish Congress to protect them! when th ey cannot protect themselves. There is no greater goal for this organization to accomplish. That is why it was formed seven decades ago — to protect other Jewish communities in peril. No matter where there are Jews who need help — be it in Eastern Europe or the former Soviet Union or Latin America — the WJC should be there for them.

Almost everyone knows the World Jewish Congress has been distracted by disputes that have injured its ability to fully function. Now, we must show Jews and non-Jews that the WJC is much greater than any scandal. I am running for the office of president because I believe it is imperative that this historic and unique organization be synonymous with honesty and forthrightness.

I happen to have experience in this kind of task. When I took charge of the Jewish National Fund, that great organization was mired in scandal. Nine years later, the JNF is one of the most exemplary charitable institutions in the world. This dramatic turnaround came about not by magic and not by wishing the problems away. It was accomplished by bringing in new and younger people and setting a zero-tolerance policy for any impropriety.

On that note, it is imperative that the next generation of Jews begin to take over the reigns of decision-making in our community. That is why I have joined forces with Mathew Bronfman. Together, one of our central goals is to encourage younger leaders and pass on what we have already learned.

Above all, we as a people must not fall into factional fighting. Working together as one unified people, we can accomplish miracles. We have done this in the past and I believe we can and must do it again.

Ronald Lauder is the president of the Jewish National Fund and a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

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