Head­er pho­to cred­it­ed to The World Jew­ish Congress.

Men­achem Z. Rosen­saft, edi­tor of The World Jew­ish Con­gress, 1936 – 2016, has been guest blog­ging for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil this week as part of the Vis­it­ing Scribes series.

Our goal was for The World Jew­ish Con­gress, 1936 – 2016 to faith­ful­ly depict the con­tri­bu­tions and achieve­ments of the WJC’s lead­ers over the course of the past 80 years, includ­ing in addi­tion to Ambas­sador Laud­er the WJC’s founders Rab­bi Stephen S. Wise and Dr. Nahum Gold­mann, its long­time sec­re­tary-gen­er­al Ger­hart M. Rieg­n­er, and its pres­i­dent from 1981 to 2007, Edgar M. Bronfman.

In the inter­est of full dis­clo­sure, a brief per­son­al note seems appro­pri­ate. I am not a total­ly dis­in­ter­est­ed observ­er of many of the events and indi­vid­u­als described in the pages of The World Jew­ish Con­gress, 1936 – 2016. My father, Josef Rosen­saft, worked close­ly with many of the lead­ers of the WJC between 1945 and 1950 in his dou­ble capac­i­ty as chair­man of the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee of Lib­er­at­ed Jews in the British Zone of Ger­many and the Jew­ish Com­mit­tee that admin­is­tered the Bergen-Belsen Dis­placed Per­sons camp. Dur­ing those years he devel­oped what proved to be life-long friend­ships with Gold­mann, Rieg­n­er, and numer­ous oth­er oth­er WJC lead­ers. As a result, I grew up know­ing many of these WJC per­son­al­i­ties and became aware of the organization’s activ­i­ties in the inter­na­tion­al Jew­ish are­na almost by osmo­sis. Decades lat­er, I ran an inter­na­tion­al foun­da­tion for Ambas­sador Laud­er from 1995 to 2000, and since 2009, as the WJC’s gen­er­al coun­sel, I have worked close­ly with Ambas­sador Laud­er, CEO Robert Singer, Sec­re­tary-Gen­er­al Emer­i­tus Michael Schnei­der, Chief Pro­gram Offi­cer Sonia Gomes de Mesqui­ta, and the entire senior lay and pro­fes­sion­al WJC leadership.

Among the con­trib­u­tors to The World Jew­ish Con­gress, 1936 – 2016 who share their per­son­al expe­ri­ences and per­spec­tives are Mon­sign­or Pier Francesco Fuma­gal­li, vice pre­fect of the Bib­liote­ca Ambrosiana in Milan, who recalls the WJC’s pio­neer­ing role in craft­ing a new Catholic-Jew­ish rela­tion­ship; Gregg J. Rick­man, who led the US Sen­ate Bank­ing Committee’s exam­i­na­tion of Swiss banks and their treat­ment of Holo­caust-era assets dur­ing and after World War II and who depicts the WJC’s key role in forc­ing Swiss banks to dis­gorge more than one bil­lion dol­lars they had wrong­ful­ly with­held from Jew­ish Holo­caust vic­tims and their heirs; Eli Rosen­baum, the long­time head of the US Jus­tice Department’s Office of Spe­cial Inves­ti­ga­tions, who as my pre­de­ces­sor as the WJC’s gen­er­al coun­sel over­saw the WJC’s expo­sure of Kurt Waldheim’s Nazi past; Natan Lern­er, pro­fes­sor of law emer­i­tus at IDC Her­zliya, the direc­tor of the WJC’s Israel Branch from 1966 until 1984, who writes about the WJC’s rela­tion­ship and inter­ac­tions with the State of Israel; Eve­lyn Som­mer, chair­per­son of the WJC’s North Amer­i­can Sec­tion, who was instru­men­tal in the cam­paign to rescind the UN res­o­lu­tion equat­ing Zion­ism with racism; and Maram Stern, the WJC’s deputy CEO for diplo­ma­cy, who rem­i­nisces about the com­plex­i­ties of attempt­ing to main­tain rela­tions with Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties in Com­mu­nist coun­tries dur­ing the Cold War years.

Oth­er chap­ters in The World Jew­ish Con­gress, 1936 – 2016 are devot­ed to, among oth­er top­ics, the invalu­able assis­tance the WJC pro­vid­ed to the pros­e­cu­tors at the Inter­na­tion­al Mil­i­tary Tri­bunal at Nurem­berg, and the organization’s suc­cess­ful diplo­mat­ic nego­ti­a­tions on behalf of Jews from North Africa in the 1950s and 1960s. In the book’s con­clud­ing chap­ters, Ambas­sador Laud­er lays out his vision of the Jew­ish future, and Robert Singer describes the activ­i­ties and accom­plish­ments of the World Jew­ish Con­gress today.

I am deeply hon­ored that Ambas­sador Laud­er and Robert Singer entrust­ed me with the task of com­pil­ing and edit­ing this book, and am grate­ful to them for their con­stant encour­age­ment and sup­port. It is our hope that The World Jew­ish Con­gress, 1936 – 2016 will become an essen­tial resource not just for an under­stand­ing of the World Jew­ish Con­gress, but for any­one inter­est­ed in Jew­ish polit­i­cal his­to­ry of the twen­ti­eth and ear­ly twen­ty-first centuries.