World Jewish Congress Elects Ronald Lauder as President

Associated Press
Sunday, June 10, 2007; 9:11 PM

NEW YORK (AP) -- A former U.S. ambassador and real estate investor was elected on Sunday as president of the World Jewish Congress, which has led the campaign to win millions of dollars in restitution from Swiss banks holding the assets of Holocaust victims.

Ronald S. Lauder succeeds billionaire businessman Edgar M. Bronfman Sr. who resigned after 28 years in the post.

"This is such an important organization. Let's do everything we can to make this what it was, glorious," Lauder said as he addressed delegates in New York.

Lauder, 63, is a former U.S. Ambassador to Austria and has worked in real estate and media investments with Central European Media Enterprises, which operates in a number of central and eastern European countries, according to the congress Web site. In 1987, Lauder established the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to rebuild Jewish communities in Central and Eastern Europe.

Bronfman's son, Matthew Bronfman, was elected the chairman of the governing board.

Founded in 1936, the World Jewish Congress is well-known for fighting anti-Semitism and lobbying to allow the Jews of the Soviet Union to emigrate.

The elder Bronfman announced his decision to leave May 7 at a meeting in New York. He made his fortune with his family's Seagram's liquor empire. In 1999, President Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. He has served as president of the World Jewish Congress since 1979.

The congress, one of the most prominent Jewish organizations, has been beset by a series of problems, including a bitter internal feud and Bronfman's firing of longtime deputy Israel Singer. A 2006 report by the New York attorney general concluded that Singer had improperly used WJC funds for personal use, although no criminal charges were filed.

The next regular election of president and governing board chairman by the organization's Plenary Assembly will be held in 2009.

© 2007 The Associated Press