WJC 85th Anniversary - World Jewish Congress
A Message from WJC President Ronald S. Lauder

Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder


Menachem Z. Rosensaft

The Jewish Right to Equality

Judge Julian W. Mack

The World Jewish Congress during World War II

Gregory J. Wallance

The Re-enfranchisement of the Jew

Rabbi Stephen S.Wise

Nuremberg and Beyond: Jacob Robinson, a Champion for Justice

Jonathan A. Bush

The State of World Jewry, 1948

Nahum Goldmann

Gerhart M. Riegner: Pioneer for Jewish–Catholic Relations in the Contemporary World

Monsignor Pier Francesco Fumagalli

The World Jewish Congress and the State of Israel: A Personal Reminiscence

Natan Lerner

The World Jewish Congress, the League of Nations, and the United Nations

Zohar Segev

From Pariah to Partner: The Jews of Postwar Germany and the World Jewish Congress

Michael Brenner

Diplomatic Interventions: The World Jewish Congress and North African Jewry

Isabella Nespoli, Menachem Z. Rosensaft

Bourguiba’s Jewish Friend

S. J. Goldsmith

Soviet Jewry: Debates and Controversies

Suzanne D. Rutland

Advancing the Best in Jewish Culture

Philip M. Klutznick

The Struggle for Historical Integrity at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Laurence Weinbaum

New Directions and Priorities, 1985

Edgar M. Bronfman

Fighting Delegitimization: The United Nation’s “Zionism Is Racism” Resolution, a Case Study

Evelyn Sommer

Navigating the Communist Years: A Jewish Perspective

Maram Stern

The Kurt Waldheim Affair

Eli M. Rosenbaum

In Search of Justice: The World Jewish Congress and the Swiss Banks

Gregg J. Rickman

Confronting Terror: The Buenos Aires Bombings

Adela Cojab-Moadeb

The World Jewish Congress Today

Robert R. Singer

My Vision of the Jewish Future

Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder


Robert R. Singer

WJC 1936 - 2021

A Message from WJC President Ronald S. Lauder

In August of 1942, a man named Gerhart Riegner tried to alert the world to the atrocities that were being perpetrated against Jews in Poland and that these crimes against humanity were part of Hitler’s plan to annihilate all of the Jewish people. Many of us know that Dr. Riegner headed the Geneva office of the World Jewish Congress at that time, and some of us know that he later served for many years with great distinction as the WJC’s secretary-general. But did you know that Gerhart Riegner also was largely responsible for the remarkable change in the Catholic-Jewish dialogue that altered the Vatican’s attitude toward Jews after two thousand years of anti-Semitic hatred? And did you know it was the Swedish Section of the WJC that brought about Raoul Wallenberg’s heroic mission to Budapest during the Holocaust, which prevented the deportation of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews to what would have been an almost certain death?

We know that it was the WJC that exposed Kurt Waldheim’s sordid Nazi past before he was elected president of Austria in 1986—I was the US Ambassador to Vienna at that time—but did you know that the WJC negotiated with North African governments during the 1950s to enable Jews from Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria to leave for Israel, France, and elsewhere? Did you know that a senior WJC official advised Justice Robert H. Jackson at the post–World War II trial of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg? And did you know that under the indefatigable leadership of CEO Robert Singer, the WJC today has developed and is implementing an unprecedented agenda of ambitious and far reaching programs and activities on behalf of the Jewish people? These are only some of the WJC’s dramatic accomplishments that are described with great eloquence in the book you hold in your hands. I am deeply grateful to my longtime friend Menachem Rosensaft for compiling and editing this truly magnificent account of the WJC’s history since its founding in 1936. The authors whom Menachem brought together remind us not only what the WJC did in the past, but why the Jewish people need this vital organization now more than ever and will continue to need it in the future.

The World Jewish Congress has always been unique, different from other Jewish organizations because it is truly a democratic global body made up of more than one hundred communities around the world. The WJC was created on the eve of the Holocaust in 1936, just three years after the Nazi rise to power, out of the need to organize in the face of the dangerous anti-Semitism sweeping across Europe. As Menachem writes in his introduction, not only did no international Jewish organization exist in 1936, but the WJC’s founders faced tremendous opposition from other Jewish leaders and groups who did not want an organization advocating politically for Jewish rights. Our mission has not changed. It is the same today as it was then: to give the Jewish people a voice in the international arena, to protect Jews against anti-Semitism and violence, to defend Jewish values and interests anywhere and everywhere in the world, and—since 1948—to support and defend the Jewish state of Israel against its enemies and detractors.

The WJC’s overriding goal is to protect Jewish communities across the globe and to allow Jews everywhere to live freely as Jews, without discrimination or the threat of persecution. While there is no doubt that Jews currently are in a better and safer position than they were in 1936, much work remains to be done. It is true that today there is a prevalence of democratic governments that are strongly supportive of Jewish concerns and with which the WJC regularly interacts. But anti-Semitism is on the rise again all over the world, and coupled with the frighteningly fast-growing threat of global terrorism, our Jewish communities face enormous danger and pressure. Over the last decade, we have witnessed unfathomable acts of violence against Jews in Israel, in Europe, and even in the United States. Jewish communities in many parts of this world have no choice but to instate heavy security apparatuses to protect their institutions. In Europe, Jews are faced with the double threat of growing far-right movements and violent instances of Islamic jihadism. In the United Nations and many of its bodies and agencies, an anti-Israel bias has become a frightening phenomenon.

The WJC protects Jews everywhere and constantly defends the State of Israel against these threats through direct contact with the world’s leaders. Over the last decade, I have visited scores of communities and met with presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers, and local officials, conveying the concerns of our communities and representing their interests.

The WJC is the official representative of the Jewish world. We are exceedingly well-coordinated and have strong contacts with governmental and international institutions and personnel on all levels. We are well positioned to carry out the critical work of protecting and defending Jewish interests and the State of Israel because we are the centralized body of the global Jewish community. In some ways, the WJC can be seen as the world government of the Jewish people—a democratically organized body convening communities from across the world to work together for our collective vision of a safer today and a better tomorrow. As in all other governments, our affiliated communities may not always agree with each other, but thanks to the WJC, they have a platform for global discussion and know that the WJC stands up for them in the international arena and, when necessary, to their own governments back home. Due in large part to the strength of the State of Israel and the existence of the WJC, as well as other Jewish organizations, the Jewish world no longer fears another Holocaust. Like the founders of the WJC who gathered in Geneva in August 1936, we are determined to defeat our enemies; and perhaps most important, thanks to the WJC, Jews around the world know that they are not alone.