The World Jew­ish Con­gress, 1936 – 2016

Men­achem Z. Rosen­saft, ed.; Ronald S. Laud­er, fwd.
  • Review
By – June 12, 2017

The World Jew­ish Con­gress, 1936 – 2016 edit­ed by Men­achem Z. Rosen­saft

At a time when there is a pletho­ra of Jew­ish orga­ni­za­tions, near­ly all known by their ini­tials, it is easy to con­fuse or even over­look the WJC, or World Jew­ish Con­gress. How­ev­er, no one who reads even a few pages of this new vol­ume is like­ly to make that mis­take again, for it touch­es on vir­tu­al­ly every major Jew­ish issue of the last sev­en­ty years and describes the cen­tral role played by the WJC.

In his fact-packed intro­duc­tion, Men­achem Rosen­saft paints a vivid pic­ture of an orga­ni­za­tion that was over­shad­owed by scan­dal in spite of its impor­tant mis­sion, and how with new lead­er­ship it recov­ered and became pos­si­bly the most influ­en­tial orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cat­ed to pro­tect­ing Jew­ish inter­ests wher­ev­er in the world they were threatened.

In twen­ty-two essays by some of the world’s fore­most author­i­ties on the prin­ci­pal issues fac­ing the Jew­ish peo­ple, we learn how the WJC facil­i­tat­ed the hero­ic work of Raoul Wal­len­berg in Hun­gary dur­ing the Holo­caust, and nego­ti­at­ed with the gov­ern­ments of Moroc­co, Tunisia, and Alge­ria to enable their Jew­ish cit­i­zens to escape to France, Israel, and else­where dur­ing the 1950s. From the halls of the Unit­ed Nations to the vaults of Swiss bankers, the WJC mus­tered its resources. Unlike books writ­ten after the fact by schol­ars, the essays in this vol­ume are the work of either par­tic­i­pants in the events them­selves or lead­ers who influ­enced them. Among the con­trib­u­tors are Edgar Bronf­man, Mon­sign­or Pier Francesco Fuma­gal­li — who was instru­men­tal in chang­ing rela­tions between the Catholic Church and the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty — Robert Singer, and Rab­bi Stephen Wise.

In addi­tion to list­ing the names and bio­graph­i­cal sketch­es of the con­trib­u­tors, the book has an Index and End­notes” sec­tion with detailed footnotes.

The World Jew­ish Con­gress, 1936 – 2016 not only makes for fas­ci­nat­ing read­ing but also reminds us how much progress has been made in the last eighty years, and the great chal­lenges that lie ahead.

Read Men­achem Z. Rosen­saft’s Vis­it­ing Scribe Posts

WJC: An Orga­ni­za­tion with a Personality

The First Polit­i­cal Body for Jews

An Empha­sis on Leaders

Peter L. Roth­holz head­ed his own Man­hat­tan-based pub­lic rela­tions agency and taught at the Busi­ness and Lib­er­al Arts (BALA) pro­gram at Queens Col­lege. He lives in East Hamp­ton, NY and San­ta Mon­i­ca, CA and is a fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to Jew­ish publications.

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