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At Georgetown, WJC President Ronald Lauder Addresses Anti-Semitism, Attacks on Christians

WASHINGTON,  World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder addressed the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe and around the world, and the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, as part of the 2014-2015 Hal Israel Endowed Lectureship in Jewish-Catholic Relations at Georgetown University today.

The Hal Israel Lecture series seeks to facilitate dialogue and strengthen ties between Jews and Catholics, exploring the many ways in which members of these two faiths continue to replace ancient prejudices with cooperation and understanding in today's world.

This evening’s address took place after Lauder testified yesterday on the rise of European anti-Semitism in the wake of recent terror attacks in France and Denmark, before the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, chaired by Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ).

The lecture series honors Hal Israel, who graduated from Georgetown University in 1992 and continued his studies at Yale University Law School, where he obtained his J.D. Upon graduation, he practiced law in Phoenix. Hal Israel was an active and involved lawyer and was devoted to helping others. Hal is survived by his wife Donna, two children, parents Lesley and Fred Israel, and his brother Sandy.
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WJC President Ronald S Lauder to Congress: Where is US?

“U.S. must condemn this evil for what it is -- the radical Islamic hatred of Jews”

WASHINGTON, In testimony before a key Congressional committee today, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder warned that radical Islam is fueling the flames of a new anti-Semitism engulfing Europe, and blasted the United States for failing to lead a fight to extinguish the threat.

Appearing on behalf of WJC – representing more than 100 Jewish communities worldwide – before the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, Lauder said: “In order to defeat this new flame of radical Islamic terror and survive, the United States must lead. The United States can and must speak loudly and clearly to condemn this evil for what it is – the radical Islamic hatred of Jews.”

Lauder’s remarks came in testimony today before the House subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ), on the topic, “After Paris and Copenhagen, Responding to the Rising Tide of Anti-Semitism.” Also testifying on this issue were Roger Cukierman, president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF), and Dan Rosenberg Asmussen, president of the Danish Jewish community.

Lauder said the recent deadly wave of terror attacks against Jewish targets in Copenhagen and Paris were only the latest signs of a rising wave of anti-Semitism sweeping across Europe. This new form of anti-Semitism is being driven by radical Islam, but pushed along by extreme nationalists on the right and anti-Israel intellectual elites in universities, he said.

“European leaders have stepped up and strongly condemned these attacks on Jews and the rise of anti-Semitism,” he said. “The United States must do the same. The United States must lead.”

Further, Lauder criticized the absence of any U.S. representation at the anti-terror march in Paris in the wake of the attacks on the satiric weekly Charlie Hebdo and on a kosher supermarket, which drew world leaders and over 1 million participants.

“Many of the leaders in Europe linked arms in solidarity in the very front row, but there was not one U.S. representative with them in the front row,” he said. “I believe that sent a very negative message around the world.”

Lauder cited a string of statistics behind the rising anti-Semitism. Jews represent less than one percent of the French population, but were targeted by more than 50 percent of all racist attacks last year. Anti-Semitic attacks in France, the U.S. and Austria all doubled from 2013, he added. In fact, an EU report from nine nations showed that 16 months ago – long before the latest wave of terror – Jews in these countries were already concerned about growing anti-Semitism.

Lauder concluded by urging the U.S. to take the lead in countering this trend. “Why isn’t the United States leading the world in this crisis?” he said.

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VP Biden to WJC Leaders: Jews Must "Speak Out Every Time Anti-Semitism Raises its Ugly Head"

Biden met with World Jewish Congress Leaders in Washington

WASHINGTON, The leadership of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) met in Washington, D.C. for its annual Executive Committee meeting to discuss the growing threats to Jewish communities and the surge in anti-Semitism.

At a special reception tonight, Vice President Joe Biden commended World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder for his and the WJC’s tireless efforts to combat anti-Semitism in Europe and worldwide.

Commenting on the rise of world anti-Semitism, Biden said: “I spent a lot of time in Austria, Munich, and France talking about anti-Semitism in Europe and other places around the world and let me tell you that your work really matters. If you don't constantly speak out every time it raises its ugly head -- if you let it sit for a minute -- it's like a boil that festers. I want to thank you all for your constant, unrelenting oversight and for making sure that wherever it rears its head, you speak.”

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Ronald Lauder congratulates Benjamin Netanyahu, urges world leaders to work with the PM

NEW YORK, The president of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald S. Lauder, today congratulated Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu on winning Tuesday’s Knesset election. “Israel is one of the world’s great democracies and once again, its people have shown this through a free and open democratic election. Prime Minister Netanyahu has demonstrated his tremendous leadership abilities over the years along with his incredible dedication to the Jewish state of Israel,” Lauder said in a first reaction.

“At a time that has seen a dangerous increase in anti-Semitic attacks throughout the world, the next few years will be a challenge for Jews everywhere, and I look forward to working with Prime Minister Netanyahu to make the world a safer place for all people.”

“I urge world leaders to respect the result of this democratic ballot and to work closely with Prime Minister Netanyahu and his new government in the months and years ahead. In a volatile Middle East, Israel’s right to exist as a democratic, Jewish state must be safeguarded, the security situation in the Middle East must be improved and the government must ensure that Israel can continue to be the economic and scientific powerhouse it has become in the past decades,” said Lauder.

With 99 percent of the ballots cast tallied, Netanyahu’s Likud won 30 seats and will be the largest party in the new Knesset, Israel’s 120-member legislature. The opposition Zionist Union led by Isaac Herzog became the second force, winning 24 seats.

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WJC CEO meets Scandinavian Jewish and political leaders to discuss security situation

World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer paid a visit to Finland, Norway and Denmark to discuss the situation of the Jewish communities in Scandinavia in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Copenhagen, which came as a shock to Scandinavian Jews.

Meeting with the Jewish community of FinlandMeeting with the Jewish community of FinlandSinger met with community leaders in Helsinki, Oslo and Copenhagen, as well as with government officials and lawmakers of these three countries, to analyze the security situation. The heads of all three Jewish communities told him that Jews were feeling increasingly uncomfortable and that anti-Semitism was clearly on the rise. However, they also emphasized that cooperation with the authorities in their respective countries was good.

Singer's visit included meetings with Danish Justice Minister Mette Frederiksen, at which he and Denmark's Jewish Community head Dan Asmussen discussed the responsibility of the Danish government for the physical security of Jews in the country. Frederiksen guaranteed that the protection of the community was not dependent on finances and that the Danish government would maintain a strong police presence at Jewish sites until a long-term plan to the security is elaborated by the police.

In Oslo, the WJC delegation also met with the State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affiars Bård Glad Pedersen and the ministry's Director-General Wegger Strømmen, as well as with the initiators of the peace-ring in Oslo in order to thank them and to discuss joint action for further similar initiatives.

In a meeting with MP Özlem Cekic from the Danish Socialist People's Party, it was agreed that in the current political climate it was important to build bridges between the Jewish and Muslim minorities in European countries.
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Outrage in France after brutal attack against Jewish couple near Paris

France is in shock after a young Jewish couple was assaulted in what police are treating as an anti-Semitic attack.

WJC, Two adult men from Créteil, the Paris suburb where the attack took place, have been arrested by police in connection with the crime while a third suspect is still being sought.
The attack occurred on Monday. Three men armed with a pistol and a shotgun stormed the home of a Jewish family in Créteil, one of the eastern outskirts of French capital. After knocking on the door of the apartment and then breaking in, they demanded money and shouted anti-Semitic insults.

One of the sons in the family, 21 years of age, was there at the time with his 19-year-old girlfriend while the parents were away. One of the assailants proceeded to withdraw money from the nearest ATM with the couple's stolen debit cards while the two others remained in the apartment with the couple. The duo then raped the woman and tied up the man. After hearing them scream, a neighbor called the police.

According to a report by France's BFM website, the assailants targeted this particular couple because they mistakenly thought the male victim, a salesman at a popular clothing store at the Creteil mall, was the store's manager and had access to large amounts of money. Before the rape, the men demanded that the couple hand over their credit cards and codes, the couple later told police.

"Tell us where you hide the money," said one of the assailants during the robbery, according to one of the victims' friends in the BFM report. "You Jews always have money.”

Reactions

The French Jewish umbrella organization CRIF strongly condemned what it termed “a savage anti-Semitic aggression” and urged authorities to act against growing anti-Semitism in the country:

“Anti-Semitism is continuing to rage across our country: Anti-Semitic prejudice is becoming stronger and increasingly perturbing, as revealed a recent survey of Fondapol/Ifop about anti-Semitism in France. We call for a specific plan to be urgently put in place whose aim it must be to deploy unprecedented judicial and police measures to reverse this trend. The CRIF expresses its support to the victims and their families,” the CRIF statement said.

France has seen a sharp rise in anti-Semitism in recent years, and it flared particularly during this Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip, with violent protests in Paris and other French cities.

On Thursday, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls condemned the attack as “vile” and said that it demonstrated that the fight against anti-Semitism was a daily struggle.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in a statement on Wednesday that the attack’s "anti-Semitic nature seems proven" as the assailants had "started with the idea that being Jewish means having money.”
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WJC honors Henry Kissinger with Theodor Herzl Award

WJC, Former US Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger was this year’s laureate of the World Jewish Congress Theodor Herzl Award. At the annual gala dinner in New York, the 91-year-old Kissinger was presented with the award by US journalist Barbara Walters. WJC President Ronald S. Lauder said in his address that “Henry Kissinger brought an unusual combination of knowledge, brilliance and skill to the office of Secretary of State.” More than 500 guests attended the dinner at Manhattan’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
Introducing the laureate, Lauder particularly highlighted Kissinger’s efforts to secure peace in Vietnam and in the Middle East. He was instrumental in bringing Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to visit Jerusalem, the first step toward the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty signed in 1979 at Camp David. The WJC president also said that German-born Kissinger had been America’s first-ever Jewish secretary of state.

Lauder also recalled an anecdote from the 1970s: “During the shuttle diplomacy, Secretary of State Kissinger made it quite clear to [Israel’s Prime Minister] Golda Meir, just so there was no confusion, that he was an American first, secretary of state second, and a Jew third. ‘That's fine,’ Golda Meir told him, ‘since Israelis read from the right to the left…’”

Barbara Walters said in her laudation speech that growing up in Germany, Kissinger had come to know “first-hand that anti-Semitism was a cancer that will grow and spread if not removed […] A Jewish boy from a small German town who experienced discrimination because he was a Jew grew up to become one of the most esteemed and respected secretaries of state of the greatest nation on earth, engaging in international diplomacy that helped to change the course of history.”

Kissinger: ‘Friendship between US and Israel an essential element’

In his speech, Henry Kissinger addressed some of the challenges currently facing America and Israel: “There is enormous upheaval. We are in a period in which many of the institutions we’re familiar with are under attack. The Jewish people have again, in some countries, become the object of severe attacks. It is a moment in which the Middle East finds itself in upheaval in every respect… Israel is asked to pay an admission price before it is recognized and can participate in the international system.

“In the years ahead, the US needs to keep in mind what it will defend, even if it has to do so alone; what it has to achieve together with allies, and finally, what is beyond its capacity. The survival of Israel and the maintenance of its capacity to build a future is a principle we will pursue, even if we have to do it alone,” Kissinger said.

He added: “In the future, various groupings will form in the Middle East as countries emerge into a new definition of itself. The US has to learn how to position itself in a manner which will provide for the survival of Israel. America must be a central player and a decisive element on many of these issues.

“Israel will make its contribution by the understanding it shows for the historical and psychological problems of those who live in the same territory. Israel is a representative of the principles in which America believes.” Kissinger called the friendship between Israel and the US “an essential element.”

About the WJC’s Theodor Herzl Award

Theodor Herzl was the father of modern political Zionism. Born in Budapest in 1860, Herzl moved to Vienna and later to Paris. The anti-Semitic atmosphere he experienced there led him to believe that only the establishment of a Jewish state could bring about an end to Jew-hatred. In 1897, Herzl convened the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland.

The World Jewish Congress Theodor Herzl Award recognizes individuals who carry forward Herzl’s ideals for a safer, more tolerant world through international support for Israel and enhanced understanding of Jewish history, culture and peoplehood. In 2013, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel and his wife Marion received the Theodor Herzl Award, while in 2012 then Israeli President Shimon Peres was honored with the prize. The award was also posthumously bestowed on US President Ronald Reagan.
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Obama, Netanyahu discuss Iran and Israeli-Palestinian peace process

WJC, At a meeting at the White House on Wednesday, Israel's leader Benjamin Netanyahu urged US President Barack Obama to ensure that any final nuclear deal with Iran does not leave the Islamic republic at the “threshold" of being able to develop nuclear weapons.

Obama urged the Israeli prime minister to help find ways to prevent Palestinian civilian casualties like those inflicted in the recent Gaza war between Israel and Hamas militants, according to the 'Reuters' news agency.

Netanyahu's visit was overshadowed by word of Israel's approval of the planned construction of more than 2,600 settler homes in the overwhelmingly Arab neighborhood of Silwan, in eastern Jerusalem. The White House said the matter had come up in the two leaders' closed-door talks and warned that it would draw international condemnation, "poison the atmosphere" with the Palestinians as well as Arab governments and call into question Israel's commitment to peace. Netanyahu said in an 'ABC News' interview that the issue had not been raised.

Underscoring Israeli misgivings at a critical juncture in nuclear talks between Iran and world powers, Netanyahu made clear that he remains at odds with Obama about the course of international negotiations with Iran. "As you know, Mr. President, Iran seeks a deal that would lift the tough sanctions that you worked so hard to put in place and leave it as a threshold nuclear power," Netanyahu said. "I firmly hope under your leadership that would not happen." Netanyahu wants Tehran completely stripped of its nuclear capability while Obama has suggested he is open to Iran continuing to enrich uranium on a limited basis for civilian purposes.

While Netanyahu put the emphasis on Iran, Obama was quick to focus on the bloody 55-day Gaza conflict in the summer. This followed the collapse of US-sponsored peace talks between Israel and Palestinians in April. “We have to find ways to change the status quo so that both Israeli citizens are safe in their own homes and school children in their schools from the possibility of rocket fire, but also that we don’t have the tragedy of Palestinian children being killed as well,” Obama said. The Obama administration had backed Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas cross-border rocket fire, but also voiced criticism of Israeli military tactics as Palestinian civilian casualties mounted.

Without going into detail, Netanyahu said he remained “committed to a vision of peace for two states for two peoples." He suggested to “think outside the box” and recruit moderate Arab states to advance peace in the region, though he offered no specifics.

Within hours of the talks, both the White House and State Department blasted Israel's housing decision, reported by the anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now, to move forward on the settler housing project slated for construction since 2012.
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Search for Shoah survivor’s lost twin brother given new boost as WJC Facebook post reaches 20 million


WJC, An Auschwitz survivor’s quest to find his twin brother he last saw in 1945 through Facebook has received an unexpected boost more than a year after it was launched. In recent days, coinciding with Yom HaShoah, Israel's Holocaust remembrance day, over 380,000 users shared a post from the World Jewish Congress Facebook page about Menachem Bodner’s search for his twin brotherJeno (nicknamed Jolli). So far, more than 20 million Facebook users world-wide have seen the post and nearly 40,000 commented on it.
Menachem Bodner, 73, lives in Israel. He was separated from Jeno when Auschwitz was liberated by the Allies in January 1945.
The Israeli genealogist Ayana KimRonhas helped him prove that he had a twin brother and that his sibling also survived the Nazi concentration camp in occupied Poland. KimRon was able to track down the twin brothers real names as Elias and Jeno Gottesmannwith the help of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and the International Tracking Service in BadArolsen, Germany .
After months of searching proved fruitless, the pair turned to Facebook, creating a page called A7734 - using the concentration camp number which was tattooed on Jeno's arm by the Nazis. The Nazis kept meticulous records of their crimes which revealed this information. Elias Gottesmann (now Menachem Bodner) was tattooed with the number A7733.
The brothers were born in the village of Stroino, in what was then part of Hungary and is now situated in Ukraine. Menachem was four-and-a-half when Auschwitz was liberated. In the chaos and confusion, he doesn't remember how he came to be separated from his brother, but he sought a way out. "I was in the camp. A man came in who was looking for his wife and daughter," he told CNN last year. "I stood before him and asked if he would be my father. He picked me up in his hands and took me out of the camp." His adopted father named himBodner and took him to Israel, where he still resides.
Anyone with information about the possible whereabouts of Jeno Gottesmann should contact the following email address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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After Greek official's resignation, WJC head urges Europe to isolate extremist parties

NEW YORK/LONDON – The resignation of a top adviser to the Greek prime minister, after he was caught on videotape discussing an investigation of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party with an official of the same party, underscores that Europeans “need to establish a common policy against dealings with neo-Nazi, racist, and anti-Semitic elements, and a clear 'cordon sanitaire' vis-à-visthese parties,” World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder declared on Tuesday.
“It is outrageous that an aide to Greek Prime Minister AntonisSamaras spoke to a known anti-Semite and Holocaust denier, and it is only fitting that the aide resigned,” Lauder said. “But this egregious episode points to a larger problem – that legitimate European parties need to isolate racists and anti-Semites like Golden Dawn. Such a policy becomes even more important before the European elections in May, when such disgusting parties stand to gain in Greece and elsewhere.”
Samaras’s chief of staff, Takis Baltakos, resigned last week after Golden Dawn released a video in which Baltakos is seen telling Golden Dawn MP Ilias Kasidiaris that the prime minister had allegedly pressed judges to jail members of Golden Dawn for political reasons. Police and magistrates have been investigating charges that Golden Dawn, its members and supporters were involved in a series of violent attacks, including the killing of a left-wing rapper in September, and have formed a criminal organization. Golden Dawn's leader and other senior members have been detained pending trial on charges of belonging to a criminal organization.
Lauder further declared that WJC “has every confidence in the legal process in Greece" and said that "if the charges are upheld in court and Golden Dawn is ruled a criminal organization, the full force of the law must be brought to bear upon it.”
The Greek Parliament last Wednesday voted to removeKasidiaris' and four other Golden Dawn lawmakers' parliamentary immunity, clearing the way for another round of criminal charges against its members. Four of the lawmakers named on Wednesday, including the party leader's wife EleniZaroulia, will now be charged with belonging to a criminal organization and of carrying unregistered firearms.
The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS), aWJC affiliate, expressed "strong resentment that a government official was in conversation” with Kasidiaris. In a statement, KIS added: "We repeat our firm position and once more call upon the democratic political parties to join forces and combat the morphemes of Nazism in our country within the framework of the Constitution and the rule of law."
KIS said that Greece and Europe had a "duty to isolate those who seek the return of Nazism, and those who disseminate racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic ideas, in order to safeguard democracy."

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