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'No minority should live under a state of fear': Lauder condemns ‘horrific act of terror’ in Orlando

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder on Sunday harshly condemned the vicious attack on an Orlando, Florida nightclub which left 50 people dead and dozens more wounded earlier in the evening, in the most severe hate crime in US history.

"On behalf of world Jewry, I condemn this horrific act of terror and wish to express the Jewish people's solidarity with the victims and with the LGBT community,” Lauder said. “No minority should live under a state of fear simply because of who they are, and we must work together to root out hate in all its forms. My prayers are with the families and friends of those who were lost. May their memories be a blessing."

The suspect in the shooting pledged allegiance to ISIS and mentioned the Boston bombing in a call to 911 about 20 minutes into the attack, according to US reports. His name has not been confirmed by US authorities, but several news outlets have identified him as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old resident of Florida.
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World Jewish Congress head urges UNESCO to reject resolution to declare Western Wall a Muslim site

NEW YORK, World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder warned UNESCO against exacerbating tensions in Israel by adopting a Palestinian-sponsored resolution that declares the Western Wall in Jerusalem a part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Ahead of a vote by the UNESCO Executive Council later this week, Lauder said the proposal “goes in the face of the UNESCO Constitution, which very clearly states the organization’s aim to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration and coexistence. It would make a mockery of that founding principle if the UNESCO Executive Council were to back such a resolution. UNESCO must not be turned into a battleground for conflicts between religions.”

The WJC president added: “For thousands of years, Jews have lived and prayed in Jerusalem. Since 1967, the State of Israel has safeguarded the right of worship of all three monotheistic religions present in Jerusalem, including the right of Muslims to pray on the Mount.

“However, declaring the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest place, a Muslim site would be a travesty. Instead of fostering peace, it would only encourage extremists to step up their campaign against Jews, both in Israel and beyond.”

Lauder appealed to all 58 member countries on the UNESCO Executive to vote against the proposal: “Everybody should see that this is not about protecting holy sites; it’s about bashing Israel, it’s about sowing the seeds of strife, and it’s about legitimizing violence. It must be stopped.”

The proposal, which is sponsored by six Arab states (Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates) on behalf of the Palestinians, proposes to declare that the Western Wall is part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and called Buraq Plaza.

It also blames Israel for the recent wave of Palestinian violence and terror, urges that the Jewish state is condemned for the excavations near the Temple Mount and in the Old City of Jerusalem, and for what is termed the “aggression and illegal measures taken against the freedom of worship and access of Muslims to Al-Aqsa Mosque and Israel's attempts to break the status quo since 1967".

Moreover, the draft resolution seeks to confirm an earlier UNESCO decision that the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel's Tomb, two West Bank sites holy to both Jews and Muslims, are part of a Palestinian state.
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Meeting between Juan Manuel Santos and World Jewish Congress in NY

‘A blueprint for other parts of the world’ - Lauder backs Colombian president over peace process
NEW YORK, At their meeting in New York on Friday, the head of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) praised Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos for achieving a breakthrough in peace talks between the Colombian government and the rebel guerrilla group FARC. WJC President Ronald S. Lauder told Santos: “We congratulate you wholeheartedly on this major achievement, and we sincerely hope that in the next months, you will be able to conclude an agreement that will not just bring peace and stability to Colombia and its people, but will also serve as a blueprint for other parts of the world in which peace has so far been elusive.”

“President Santos has our support in this endeavour. Trying to make peace requires courage and bold action, and of course it also requires a partner on the other side who chooses dialogue over violence and confrontation. We hope that through his actions, President Santos will be able to show the world how even long-standing conflicts can be resolved peacefully through negotiations,” the Lauder declared after the meeting.

The 50-old conflict has so far claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people. At the same time, the Colombian leader had always maintained the need to do justice to the victims of the conflict and not to cede any ground to terrorists or grant them impunity.

During their encounter, Santos and Lauder also discussed developments in the Middle East, and other aspects such as the situation of Jews in Latin America.

Lauder thanked Santos for his steadfast support for the State of Israel, and to the 5,000-strong Jewish community of Colombia.

President Santos was in New York for high-level meetings at the United Nations General Assembly. Santos and Lauder had previously met in 2011 and 2012.
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World Jewish Congress delegation meets with Ukrainian PM to discuss situation of Jews

Leaders of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and the Ukrainian Jewish community held talks today in Kiev with Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and the mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, to discuss both the situation of Jews in Ukraine and international matters. The WJC delegation included WJC CEO Robert Singer and WJC Vice Presidents Andrey Adamovsky and Boris Fuchsmann, as well as the chairman of the General Council of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, Josef Zissels.

Singer expressed great satisfaction that the Jewish community enjoys comfortable living and good relations within all spheres of Ukrainian society, and thanked Prime Minister for his government’s leadership and cooperation. Yatsenyuk made it clear that he and his government would continue to be “very tough and adamant on fighting anti-Semitism and xenophobia,” adding: “These are not just words. They come from the bottom of my heart.” 
The WJC delegation and Yatsenyuk also discussed joint concerns with Iran nuclear deal, notably Tehran adhering to its commitments and effective controls by international regulatory bodies. Singer expressed concern about Iran arming groups like Hezbollah and Hamas and about proliferating terrorism. Prime Minister Yatsenyuk pledged to “act in concert with the free world” to ensure that Iran does not gain nuclear weapons capabilities.
The group also raised the upcoming anniversary of the Babi Yar massacre carried out by German forces and local collaborators in September 1941, and the planned commemorations of this event. There was agreement that the Ukrainian government, the local Jewish community and the WJC should work together to host an international commemorative event on 29 September 2016, the 75th anniversary of the massacre, in which 33,771 Jews were murdered in a single operation.
Also on Thursday, the WJC delegation met separately with the mayor of the Ukrainian capital city of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, who gave his full support for the preservation of the Babi Yar memorial for future generations and next year’s commemorations of the massacre.
On Wednesday, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kiev Patriarchate), Patriarch Filaret, met with the World Jewish Congress leaders.
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World Jewish Congress head welcomes 4-year jail sentence handed to ‘Auschwitz bookkeeper’

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder welcomed today’s verdict by a court in Lüneburg, Germany which sentenced the Oskar Gröning to four years in prison for his complicity in the murder of 300,000 Hungarian Jews in Auschwitz in 1944.

Oskar GröningOskar GröningLauder said: “Albeit belatedly, justice has been done. Mr. Gröning was only a small cog in the Nazis’ death machine, but without the actions of people like him, the mass murder of millions of Jews and others would not have been possible. It was the right decision to put him on trial despite his old age, and it was right that he was handed a jail sentence. He may have to spend the final years in confinement, but that is a small punishment for the unspeakable crimes he aided to commit.

Lauder added: “There must never be impunity or closure for those who were involved in mass murder and genocide, irrespective of their age, and we commend Germany for holding this trial. We urge authorities there – and in other European countries – not to relent in the quest for bringing the perpetrators of the biggest crime in the history of mankind to justice.”

Gröning, 94, has been dubbed the "bookkeeper of Auschwitz” for his role in collecting luggage and seizing cash and valuables from incoming Hungarian Jews between May and July of 1944. Gröning was trained bankteller before joining the SS.

The sentence handed to him by the court exceeded the three and a half years that state prosecutors had requested. Gröning’s lawyers had sought an acquittal.
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WJC President Lauder addresses March of the Living in Budapest, denounces far-right Jobbik party

World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder strongly denounced anti-Semitism and criticized Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party in his keynote address in front of thousands at this year’s ‘March of the Living’ in Budapest in commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust.

“The March of the Living reminds us what happens when the world is silent,” said Lauder. “We will never be silent again. And when it comes to anti-Semitism, the Hungarian government must never be silent.”

“Today, when the world looks at Hungary, it does not see its great culture. It does not see its beautiful cities. It does not remember its great and glorious past,” continued Lauder, adding: “Today, the world sees Hungary, and it sees Jobbik. It sees an extremist party that promotes hate.”

On its website, Jobbik calls for fighting “Zionist Israel’s quest for world domination." In the past, some of its leaders questioned whether the Holocaust took place and called for drawing up a list of Jewish lawmakers who may pose a “national security risk.” In 2013, the party held a protest rally against the World Jewish Congress Plenary Assembly in Budapest.

Later on Sunday, Jobbik party scored a narrow victory in a by-election, marking a breakthrough in its challenge to the Fidesz party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. With more than 99 per cent of ballots counted, Lajos Rig, Jobbik’s candidate, topped the poll in the district of Tapolca, with 35.3 per cent of the vote.

In his speech, Lauder also condemned acts of anti-Semitism. “There are statues of shoes along the Danube. They are there as a memorial to the Jewish people who were murdered there. No-one has the right to spit in those shoes. No-one. In this great city we send one clear message to the entire world: The Hungarian Jewish community is alive and well. And the Hungarian Jewish community is not going anywhere. We march today to say: We are here. We are alive. And here we will remain.”

About 560,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered during the Holocaust, most of them in 1944. Today, Hungary’s Jewish community numbers around 100,000 and it is still the largest in Central Europe.

Lauder highlighted the contribution of Hungarian Jews to their country. “Jews helped make this country great. When Jews are part of a society, any society, countries prosper. Jews win Nobel prizes. Jews create jobs and they cure diseases. Jews build -- they don’t tear down! Anti-Semites tear down, they destroy, they create nothing, they save no-one. And when Jews are forced to leave, they take their success with them,” he told the crowd in central Budapest.

The ‘March of the Living’ in Hungary is organized every year by the March of the Living Foundation, with the support of the MAZSIHISZ, the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary. Thousands participated in today’s event.



Transcript of the speech by Ronald S. Lauder at the March of the Living, Budapest, 12 April 2015


I stand here today as a proud Jew. Proud of my ancient heritage. Proud of my people. Proud of what we have created. I am also proud of my Hungarian heritage. But I know that if my grandparents had not left Hungary, if I had born here in 1944, I would have been one of the tens-of-thousands of Jewish children gassed at Auschwitz.

That is why we are here today. That is why we march together. Not just because of what happened 70 years ago, but because of what is happening here today.

70 years after Hitler and Auschwitz and the Arrow-Cross Jews are targeted once again. 70 years later, we see the same signs that we saw before. I stand here today to tell you that no one, no political party, no thugs in the night, No-one has the right to threaten our people. No-one has the right to deface our synagogues. No-one has the right to hurt our children.

There are statues of shoes along the Danube. They are there as a memorial to the Jewish people who were murdered there. No-one has the right to spit in those shoes. No-one.

In this great city we send one clear message to the entire world: The Hungarian Jewish community is alive and well. And the Hungarian Jewish community is not going anywhere. We march today to say: We are here. We are alive. And here we will remain. The March of the Living also reminds us of what happens when the world is silent.

Silence allows the lowest forces of mankind out in the open. We Jews learned this lesson the hard way. We know what happens when the world is silent. And the price we paid was too high. For that reason, we will never be silent again. I will never be silent. I will not be silent when Jews are the target. I will not be silent when Christians are the target. When any group is singled out by hate, I will not be silent. And when someone spits in those shoes along the Danube and the Hungarian government does not condemn that, it looks like the government agrees. When someone stands up in Parliament and wants to put Jews on lists, the government must not be silent. When it comes to anti-Semitism, the Hungarian government must never be silent.

Sometimes people forget the important role Jews played in Hungary. Jews helped make this country great. When Jews are part of a society, any society, countries prosper. Jews win Nobel prizes. Jews create jobs and they cure diseases. Jews build they don’t tear down! Anti-Semites tear down, they destroy, they create nothing, they save no one. And when Jews are forced to leave, they take their success with them.

Jobbik may think they are true Hungarians trying to save Hungary. But Jobbik hurts Hungary. In the eyes of the rest of the world, people see Jobbik, they see an extremist party that promotes hate. Jobbik does not even realize that they hurt Hungary’s future. Today, when the world looks at Hungary, it does not see its great culture. It does not see its beautiful cities. It does not remember its great and glorious past. Today, the world sees Hungary and they see Jobbik.

And when businessmen want to invest in Hungary, they also see Jobbik and they are afraid to come. Jobbik hurts Hungary. Do not allow a small percentage of the population to destroy Hungary. The people of Hungary are too good for that. This march is being covered by hundreds of news organizations.

In this world of instant pictures and the Internet, news is flashed around the globe in an instant. And when there is an act of hate against anyone that is the news that people see outside of Hungary. Everything good that Hungary did in 1956 and its push for capitalism, all of that is forgotten. In the end, you must decide the image you want to send to the world.

Look around you. Today, there are thousands of Hungarians, Jews and Christians, marching together against hate. You march together for a better future. That is the image you want people to see. You want people to know that Jobbik is not Hungary.

Hungary has a bright future. Hungary and the Jewish people are tied together. Thank you for standing with us. I believe strongly this is our only choice. We stand together and we say enough! Enough anti-Semitism. Enough hatred. Enough death and destruction. Today we turn an important corner and we start building together.

To everyone here I say: Thank you for standing against anti-Semitism and hate. Thank you for standing with the Jewish people. Thank you for remembering. And I say again: Jobbik is not Hungary. Hungary is the thousands of Christians who are here today to support the Jewish community.

Today we honor life, not death. This is the March of the LIVING! We will work together to make our world a better place. We look forward not backward. But we will not be silent.
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World Jewish Congress praises British PM Cameron fro taking ‘Exemplary Measures’ to protect Jews

NEW YORK, The World Jewish Congress (WJC) today welcomed an announcement by British Prime Minister David Cameron to increase spending to better protect Jewish institutions in the UK against potential terror attacks. “The measures Mr. Cameron proposed are exemplary, and will no doubt make a difference,” said WJC President Ronald S. Lauder.

“We welcome the British government’s strong commitment to the protection of the Jewish community, and we hope that other European governments make similar commitments soon. Islamist terror and anti-Semitism must be stopped if we want to preserve a vibrant Jewish life in Europe,” said Lauder.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews, the WJC’s member in the UK, also welcomed Cameron’s promise to increase funding. “We hope that this will provide a model to tackle other forms of hate and violence in UK society, including Islamophobia, homophobia and violence against disabled people. We will continue to work alongside other groups in order to tackle all forms of hatred in our society,” the Board declared in a statement.

In Wednesday’s speech to the Community Security Trust in London, Cameron pledged “to fight anti-Semitism with everything we have got,” adding that “no disagreements on politics or policy can ever be allowed to justify racism, prejudice or extremism in any form.” Cameron said an additional £3 million ($4.4 million) a year would be allocated to the protection of synagogues and other potentially vulnerable Jewish community buildings, in addition to the £7 million ($10.3 million) provided in Wednesday’s budget to fund guards for all Jewish private schools and colleges.

“If the Jewish community does not feel secure then our whole national fabric is diminished. It is not just about the enormous contribution you all make to our society - it is more profound than that. It is a measure of the vigor of our institutions and the health of our democracy that the Jewish community feels safe to live and flourish here. It is about the strength of the values that we stand for,” Cameron said.

He also made it clear that while Britain was a tolerant country, Islamist hate preachers would be expelled. He also defended Israel: “When people talk of trying to boycott Israel - you will never be alone,” Cameron said, adding: “When students on campus are afraid, when shechita is under threat, when Jewish institutions need extra security - you will never be alone.”

Pointing out the right of “Israel to defend its citizens, a right enshrined in international law, in natural justice and fundamental morality,” Cameron praised Israel as “an extraordinary nation.”
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World Jewish Congress President Robert S. Lauder urges Danish governmet to secure Jewish community, Counter rising Anti-Semitic violance

Following the attacks at a synagogue and café in Copenhagen, Denmark on Saturday, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder strongly condemned the incidents and urged the Danish government to find those responsible while stepping up efforts to protect the local Jewish community against rising anti-Semitic violence.

“The World Jewish Congress deplores these despicable attacks, and stands in solidarity with the Jewish community and the people of Denmark,” said Lauder of the shooting at a synagogue in central Copenhagen, in which a civilian was killed and two police officers were injured, and an earlier attack. The synagogue shooting took place shortly after an earlier attack at a Copenhagen café where a Swedish artist who had produce caricatures of the prophet Mohammed was speaking at an event on freedom of speech. One person was killed and three police officers were injured in that attack. It is not yet clear if the two incidents were connected.

“We are confident the Danish government will take all necessary measures to bring those responsible for these attacks to justice, and we urge them to help secure the local Jewish community against anti-Semitic violence,” Lauder said.

“These attacks in Copenhagen follow the similar, brutal targeting of Jews and others in Paris and across Europe,” Lauder added. “European governments should recognize that we are facing a vicious new wave of anti-Semitism and violence. It is crucial that Europe contends with this growing threat.”

World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer visited Copenhagen late last year and discussed with Danish authorities the importance of heightening security measures for the local Jewish community.

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World Jewish Congress delegation received by Pope Francis on Rosh Hashana eve

Pope Francis received a delegation of 40 international Jewish leaders at his residence, ahead of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, which begins next week. The presidents of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald S. Lauder, and of the Latin American Jewish Congress, Jack Terpins, presented the head of the Catholic Church with a number of gifts, including a traditional honey cake.

During their conversation, the Pope notably raised the question of the persecution and mass slaughter of Christians in the Middle East and told the Jewish delegation: “Like you [the Jews] suffered in the past, Christians are today suffering in many parts of the world.”

The meeting with Francis took place in the Santa Marta guesthouse in an informal setting and lasted 40 minutes. Among the participants were many Jewish community heads from Latin America and other parts of the world.

The Pope expressed his desire for peace in the Middle East and said the “window of prayer” to find a peaceful solution was still open. Lauder also raised the subject of the mass slaughter and persecution of Christians in the Middle East, to which the Pope replied: “Christians are being expelled from the region. They are persecuted, not liked, discriminated against. You [the Jews] suffered from that in the past, and we [the Christians] are suffering from it today in parts of the world.”
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USC Shoah Foundation, World Jewish Congress to support official event on 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz

NEW YORK, USC Shoah Foundation - The Institute for Visual History and Education and the World Jewish Congress will be supporting the official observance of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz with Auschwitz: The Past is Present, a global communication and education program. As part of the program, the World Jewish Congress will arrange for 100 survivors of Auschwitz, the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp, to attend and participate in the official observance of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on 27 January 2015.

Auschwitz commemoration in January 2005The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and the International Auschwitz Council are the organizers of the official commemoration event. “January 27, 2015 will be a truly exceptional day,” said Piotr M.A. Cywiński, director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. “On this day of remembrance, the whole world will focus on the tragedy of the Shoah and the entire cruel system of ghettos and concentration camps. The survivors will be our most important guests.”

“When we gather at the site of unspeakable terror, we will do so to show not only survivors, but the entire world, that the suffering of so many will never be forgotten,” said USC Shoah Foundation Executive Director Stephen D. Smith. “Those who lived through the Holocaust have carried the burden of remembering long enough. It’s up to us now, their children and grandchildren, to lift its heavy weight off their shoulders. We are ready to take on the responsibility of ensuring that this tragic chapter of human history is never repeated.”

“Auschwitz is not only the world’s biggest Jewish graveyard, it is also the primary symbol of the Holocaust, the biggest organized mass murder in human history. This will probably mark the last time that so many survivors will be able to join us there, and we must ensure that the unspeakable suffering they and many others had to endure at Auschwitz will not be forgotten once they are no longer among us,” said WJC CEO Robert Singer. He went on to say: “The World Jewish Congress and our President Ronald S. Lauder are honored that such renowned partners have agreed to jointly prepare this important anniversary, to ensure that this anniversary will get the world’s attention.”

An estimated 1.1 million people, most of them Jews, were murdered in Auschwitz, in German-occupied Poland, between 1941 and 1945.

USC Shoah Foundation - The Institute for Visual History and Education is dedicated to making audiovisual interviews with survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust and other genocides, a compelling voice for education and action. The Institute’s current collection of over 53,000 eyewitness testimonies preserves history as told by the people who lived it, and lived through it. Housed at the University of Southern California, within the Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, the Institute works with partners around the world to advance scholarship and research, to provide resources and online tools for educators, and to disseminate the testimonies for educational purposes.
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