Jewish Observer
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November 2001
5762 Kheshvan

FROM JERUSALEM WITH HOPE
MIKHAIL DOR
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800 delegates from all continents and over 70 countries participated in the General Assembly of the World Jewish Congress (WEC) held from October 30 to November 1 in Jerusalem The WEC was created by the outstanding Jewish public leader Nakhum Goldman not long before WWII. Now it is a political lobby of the Jewish world. It's main activities are: counteracting anti-Semitism, restitution of Jewish property, Holocaust compensation problems.

Owing to its leaders (today the WEC is headed by Edgar Bronfman, President of the "Sigram" corporation), which are in the world financial and political elite, their direct contacts with the heads of states and governments, the Congress is successful in reacting its targets. There are several continental sections in the WEC - North America, South America, Europe, South Africa and Euro-Asia. The latter was founded about ten years ago by the CIS delegates and until now was only on the paper.

This year the Ukrainian delegation (about 30 members) practically consisted of two parts. One part, headed by Chief Rabbi of Ukraine Yaakov Dov Bleich was working in the European Jewish Congress. The second part, headed by the Vaad Chairman Yosif Zisels participated in the work of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress. This approach made it possible to radically influence upon the changes in the by-laws of the European Jewish Congress, as well as on electing its new leadership. Regret to say, Europe has always been at a modest rank in the World Jewish Congress. The key reason, as many are aware of, is the lack of bright leaders who could take the lead in the European Jewish Congress. Rabbi Bleich's idea to involve into the leadership "people from outside" - famous political Jew-leaders in Europe who have not yet displayed themselves at a national level - was not supported by the delegates. As a result, there were two main candidates for the highest position - Joe Veigerman, leader of the Executive Committee of British Jews and Mikhael Freedman , Vice-President of the Central Council of German Jews. The General Assembly is held every 5 years. Therefore, a compromise decision about the rotation of three presidents has been made. It was decided that each of them would occupy this post for 20 months. Besides the mentioned two leaders, the post was also offered to the leader of the French community Rozhe Tsukerman. Unexpectedly, the latter waived off the offer. Then, at the meeting of the Executive Committee, Yosif Zisels suggested that this post should be given to the Russian-Ukrainian bloc of Jewish communities. The suggestion was not accepted and the French delegate thus became the co-president. Owing to the support, including the support of the Ukrainian delegation, Joe Veigerman took the first turn. The CIS delegations introduced some amendments to the by-laws. The amendments provide for the president's position not to a specific person but to a country. This makes us hope that this time the former USSR countries will find a worthy leader for the position of the president of the EJC. Already, the vice-president's position has been granted to Ukraine, represented by Yaakov Bleich.

One of the brightest projects initiated at the present Congress was the idea of setting up the European Jewish fund, the capital assets of which (about $10 million) will be not used except for the interest for different programs. The idea is very real taking into account that such businessman as Vladimir Gusinsky has agreed already to donate some of his riches to the fund. Another interesting idea is to set up a lobby in the European Parliament to advocate the interests of Jewish communities. On rabbi Bleich's initiative, it was decided to work out a common platform for all European Jewish organizations.

As to the work of the World Jewish Congress, the meeting with the Russian-speaking deputies of the Israeli parliament is worth mentioning. Yosif Zisels headed the meeting. The deputies from different political wings answered the guests' questions and explained their position about urgent problems, first of all, about the security problem. To our delight, three from four deputies - Roman Bronfman, Mikhail Nudelman and Sofa Landver - are our former countrymen, they came from Ukraine. Some changes have taken place in the most "quiet" Euro-Asian section of the WJC. Now its leader is Alexander Mashkevitch - President of the Jewish Congress of Kazakhstan. A highly intelligent and educated man, candidate of science, he is at the same time one of the strongest businessmen in the region. His candidature was considered to be the best one for "awakening" the Euro-Asian section. Alexander Mashkevitch together with Mikhail Chlenov from Russia and Yosif Zisels became members of the Executive Committee of the World Jewish Congress. Yaakov Dov Bleich also has to become a member of this committee from the European section. In the nearest future we'll see what these changes will yield and how they will influence upon the role of our community in the "overall" Jewish world.

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