Michael Schneider

Secretary General Emeritus

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Michael Schneider served as Executive Vice-President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) from December 1987 until May 2002. In this capacity he directed one of JDC's largest operations in the field of Rescue, Relief and Reconstruction. Schneider, who was born in South Africa, began his career with JDC in 1978 after ten years of service as Chief Welfare Officer of the London Jewish Welfare Board. His first posting was as resident Country Director for Iran where he was based during and after the Khomeini revolution. After leaving Iran he continued to work on behalf of Iranian Jewry from JDC's offices in Rome. In December 1979 and 1980 respectively, he became Country Director for the Iron Curtain countries of Hungary and Czechoslovakia and for Yugoslavia. In 1982 he was sent to Ethiopia following the expulsion of ORT by the Mengistu regime and obtained permission for JDC to work among the Jewish villages in Gonder Province.

Later, when he became Executive Vice-President, JDC would play a key role in negotiations with the Ethiopian government for the exit of 14,000 Jews during Operation Solomon. Schneider served as Director-General of JDC's Israel office from 1983 through 1987 when he moved to New York to become JDC's chief professional officer. During his administration JDC provided care and maintenance for 50,000 Soviet Jewish migrants in Vienna and Ladispoli. It returned officially to the Soviet Union in 1990 and established its "Hesed" welfare programs which ultimately served some 260,000 elderly, impoverished Jews.

Relief efforts in the Former Soviet Union were later repeated during the economic collapse of Argentina where JDC provided emergency services for some 40,000 destitute Jews. Under Schneider's direction negotiations were conducted with the Governments of Syria and Yemen for the mass departure of those countries' Jews to Israel and the United States.

JDC also succeeded in transporting both Jews and Moslems out of Bosnia during the siege of Sarajevo, after successful negotiations with the military commanders of Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia. During his tenure JDC expanded its humanitarian outreach to non-Jewish communities. JDC provided emergency assistance for the Tutsi population during the Rwandan massacres, free pharmacies for the besieged residents of Sarajevo, rebuilt 40 war damaged Moslem schools in Kosovo and provided trauma counselling for pregnant Bosnian women who had been raped by Serb soldiers.

Michael Schneider stepped down as Chief Executive Officer in May 2002 to return to the field. He assumed the title of Hon. Executive Vice-President. He serves as a member of the Claims Conference Allocations Committee. He directed JDC's tsunami relief programs in Indonesia and an AIDS-related program in South Africa.

He is chairman of the finance committee of Limmud (Former Soviet Union.) He serves on the boards of the Abraham and Sonia Rochlin Foundation and the Chais Family Foundation for Jewish Education. In July 2005, he was named Chevalier of the French Legion of Honour for life time humanitarian services.

Michael Schneider was appointed as Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress, in September 2007. A position he held until June 2010.