WJC President Ronald S. Lauder Addresses JPost Conference in New York - World Jewish Congress

WJC President Ronald S. Lauder Addresses JPost Conference in New York

NEW YORK - Speaking at the Jerusalem Post conference in New York, WJC President Ronald S. Lauder reflected on the historic times the Jewish people are living through, the importance of Jewish unity, and the multi-front war Israel is facing, both on her borders and on social media.

Full Remarks: 

WJC President Ronald S. Lauder Keynote Address at Jerusalem Post Conference, New York  

I always look forward to the Jerusalem Post Conference, and I thank the paper’s editors and writers, who have worked so hard to keep us up to date since October 7th. 

I also believe there is no audience that follows events in Israel more closely, and cares more deeply than all of you, and I thank you for that. 

Today, in spite of the introduction you just heard, I am not speaking to you as the President of the World Jewish Congress that represents 100 Jewish communities around the world. Today, I am speaking to you as a Jew. One Jew, one individual Jew.  

There are many reasons why Israel was surprised on the morning of October 7th. Everyone in this room has heard them: Who should have known? Who was at fault? Who should have seen this coming? 

That’s all history now. 

For a brief moment after October 7th, the world showed sympathy for the Jewish State. The Israeli flag was projected on the Eiffel Tower, the Brandenburg Gate, and in sports stadiums. But within days after the attack – while Israel was still counting its dead – we saw the world turn against Israel. 

This shocked and confused many people. They assumed that it was antisemitism and that it was spontaneous. While anti-Semitism played a small part, the reason this turn-about took place was not at all spontaneous. 

Little did we realize that we were witnessing the unfolding of the first pre-meditated, full-blown social media war against a people and a nation.  

Israel’s enemies were well prepared to launch their global campaign to blame the very victims of the terror attack against them.  

What if the United States had been attacked with the equivalent of 50,000 dead? After 9/11, where 3,000 were killed, nobody questioned the U.S. response. Nobody would have questioned the response of any other country if it happened to them.  

Why is Israel the only country on earth that cannot defend its citizens against terrorists? It’s because Hamas controlled the narrative through social media. It’s because sophisticated operators – linked to Hamas – began a 24-7 barrage against Israel and unleashed vile streams of anti-Semitism on social media and other platforms. 

We soon realized these forces also embedded themselves in our greatest institutions of learning – colleges and universities that many of us have deep connections with – and turned them into platforms of hate. 

These two influences together created the powerful and negative reaction against Israel that we saw after October 7th that eventually led to the charges in the U.N., the ICC, and ICJ, and huge demonstrations around the world. 

Make no mistake, this is a war for the hearts and minds of people against Israel and Western civilization. Many of us in this room really don’t understand the importance or influence of social media on young people today.  

You must realize young people get all of their news on their phones or computers. 97% of the news they see on Israel is negative, while only three percent is positive. All day and all night long, young people are bombarded with lies that Israel is a “colonialist-settler nation”, an “oppressor nation” and an “illegitimate nation,” while the Palestinian people are the “oppressed.” 

Suddenly, no one seemed interested in the fact that Hamas started this war .no one was interested in the brutal killings of innocent and unarmed civilians, elderly women, children, and babies. The world didn’t care about the rapes of women and the mass abductions of hundreds of people. 

At the same time, Hamas used its own people as human shields. They didn’t care about Palestinian lives as they used mosques, hospitals, schools, and homes as cover for their fighters. 

That’s a war crime. And it was rarely reported in the media, and it was ignored in politics here in the U.S. 

A recent poll showed that 30 to 35 percent of all Democrats today consider themselves progressives – especially the young – and these progressives are strongly anti-Israel. 

That same negative influence has targeted the United States as a racist, colonialist, oppressive nation. But it doesn’t stop there. All of Western civilization is a target as well. 

Just days after October 7th, and this was not by chance, a call went out for people to gather for demonstrations. There were suddenly flags, well-produced signs, face masks, and organizers with bullhorns to lead the chants. 

This was all designed to intimidate us. Israel was not prepared for this. The United States was not prepared. The entire West was not prepared. 

Ironically, Israel knows social media better than most countries and Jews invented public relations. Israel must now make this a priority; it must totally dominate social media.  

There should be a special department with an unlimited budget and the best people working at this, because unfortunately that is exactly what Iran has. 

Israel cannot afford to lose this front, and neither can the United States. It is that important! 

Our enemies knew that if they could change our young people’s point-of-view, first on Israel and then the U.S., that soon America would no longer be the leader of the free world, completely changing the world order in their favor. They knew they could not defeat the U.S. or Israel militarily, but they had the “long view” and with enough time, they could defeat us from within. 

There is a second part to all of this, and it comes in the field of education. 

Over the past 50 years, the far-left radicals from the Vietnam War era went into education. In the 1970s and ‘80s, they began to take over departments and began to cut off all opposing views. 

Along with an anti-American focus, they were also anti-Israel as well. Recently more than 2,000 professors signed a letter denouncing Israel. This surprised no one. I want to remind you, that the first institution that kicked out the Jews in Germany in the 1930s were the universities. 

There was another factor at work here. Four years ago, the Abraham Accords caught the world by surprise. 

People began to think that peace would finally come to the Middle East. Israel seemed to be on the verge of a historic agreement with Saudi Arabia. But what Israel – and the United States – did not take into account was that its enemies saw the Abraham Accords as a direct threat to their goal: the destruction of Israel. And they would do anything to stop them. Again, this was years in the planning; and again, no one saw it coming. 

The Abraham Accords have been a great success, and hopefully we will see a peace accord forged with Saudi Arabia. 

I have made many trips to the Middle East. And you may not believe this, but I firmly believe that the people in these countries want peace as much as we do. The attacks on October 7th were not just against Israel, they were an attack on peace. This comes down to bridge builders versus haters, and I have always been a bridge builder. I am confident that the Middle East, in the near future, will become a place of peace and prosperity.  

There is something else that I want to talk about which is not easy, but we have to address it. That’s the divide within our own people in Israel. This disunity falls along two major fault lines: There are the Ultra-Orthodox Jews who have kept our religion alive and passed it on to future generations, thus continuing the “Jewishness” of our people. But Haredi Jews, for the most part, shy away from the defense of Israel, as well as connections to secular Jews.  

And there are the Conservative, Reform and secular Jews, who have maintained a strong connection with the outside world, but in some cases, have little knowledge of our traditions or our religion.  

It’s been said that the Hamas attack brought a divided Israel back together. But we cannot, and we should not, rely on our enemies to bring us together as a people. 

Our unity must come from within. It has to come from every one of us. If we fight amongst ourselves, we are helping our enemies achieve their goal; and let me remind you, those enemies want us dead. 

It is that serious! We absolutely must put aside our differences and see ALL Jews as people we must protect. 

At this moment, Israel is at a crossroads. It is fighting and its young people are dying in the defense of the Jewish State. The Northern Front could open up any day .and there is always Iran in the background. On top of all this, Israel has to fight on the social media and public relations front.  

There is something we in the Diaspora can do to help. We may not have an IDF, but we have our own weapons. We have our intelligence and our ingenuity; we have our connections, and each one of us has our own different skills. 

I have spent the last 17 years going to most of the 100 Jewish communities across the globe, and in every single community I found Jews, young Jews, that felt deeply connected to Israel and wanted to help.   

Like them, I believe every Jew in the Diaspora must not just stand with Israel but find ways to help in any way they can. 

And if you think one person can’t make a difference, I want to tell you something. Thirty-seven years ago, I was the world’s most nominal Jew.  But after I encountered anti-Semitism for the first time, when I was the U.S. Ambassador to Austria, it changed the course of my life. 

That is when I saw Jewish children, who had just come out of the Soviet Union, who were never allowed to be Jewish.  

Their parents were so eager for them to learn their heritage that the Chabad Rabbi in Vienna started a small kindergarten. I thought, if they were so desperate to learn their heritage, how could I ignore it? I was so moved by what I saw that I built a larger kindergarten. And then a school. And then another school in another city. 

Today, almost 40 years later, there are 30 different Jewish schools, from kindergartens through college, throughout Eastern and Central Europe, in the former Soviet Union, and now in Greece and Rome. 

When my students see anti-Semitism, they put on their yarmulkes and wear them proudly. I once asked some of the mothers if they were concerned for their safety, and they looked at me like I was an alien. They told me it made them proud. 

40,000 students have now graduated from those schools. That means there are now 40,000 proud Jews. 40,000 Jews who would have been lost. They have now started Jewish families .and reclaimed Jewish communities that many thought were lost forever. 

When I did this, nobody came to help me, and some even said it would fail; that I was wasting my money. 

I didn’t listen to them. I did it anyway because I knew it would work. And it did. 

Along the way, I learned that one person can make a difference. Each one of you can as well. I may not be here to see the results of all that I built, but that hardly matters. 

I did something. I started something. And all of us in the Diaspora need to as well. We stand on the shoulders of giants who came before us. Some whose names we will never know. All those Jews who came to Israel to rebuild our homeland, they had nothing, nothing but belief. 

That is a belief that all of us share. But beyond belief, they had such courage. 

Just as those early Israelis showed the world what courage was in 1948; in 1967; in 1973, at Entebbe; and, yes, today in Gaza, we must also find that courage. We will draw courage from each other. We always have. We need Israel, just as Israel needs us. We will stand with our brothers and sisters in our eternal homeland. 

We will never let them down. Our generation has two enormous and important fights before us. First, to make sure that our children and grandchildren grow up to be proud Jews, and are not turned against us by their teachers, who only want to hurt us. If your children are experiencing any antisemitism in their classroom, I want you to make it known. And may we become one people again, from the most Orthodox to the most secular. 

Our generation has never had to fight, but now we do. We must fight on the new battlefield of social media, we must fight in our schools and take them back, we must fight just as Israel is fighting and just as hard.  

The people who attacked Israel on October 7th, the people who want to wipe Israel from the pages of history are a minority and we have seen them before. From Pharoh to Haman to Hitler, they have never succeeded!  

Remember this, the vast majority of good people everywhere and here in America are with us and support us. This is not 1939, and we are not the helpless Jews of 1939.  

There is an Israel, there is an IDF and there are all of us in the diaspora that will stand with Israel forever. Of this, I am absolutely confident.  

May God continue to bless His people and the Jewish state of Israel. And may God bless all of you as well.  

Am Yisrael Chai. 


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