Head­er image cred­it­ed to the World Jew­ish Con­gress.

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

The World Jew­ish Con­gress has pub­lished a com­pre­hen­sive his­to­ry of our organization’s activ­i­ties and achieve­ments from its found­ing in Gene­va in August 1936 to the present. Fit­ting­ly, we timed the release of The World Jew­ish Con­gress, 1936 – 2016 to take place dur­ing the WJC’s 15th Ple­nary Assem­bly, April 23 – 25, held in New York for the first time in the organization’s eighty-year history.

Orga­ni­za­tions, very much like indi­vid­u­als, have dis­tinct per­son­al­i­ties which are, for the most part, a direct func­tion of the men and women who lead these groups. The World Jew­ish Con­gress is no exception.

About two years ago, when World Jew­ish Con­gress Pres­i­dent Ronald S. Laud­er and CEO Robert Singer first told me that they want­ed to pub­lish a his­to­ry of the first eighty years of the World Jew­ish Con­gress, we rapid­ly came to the con­clu­sion that such a book had to reflect the diver­si­ty of voic­es that has always char­ac­ter­ized the orga­ni­za­tion and, indeed, the Jew­ish peo­ple. Instead of ask­ing a his­to­ri­an to write an aca­d­e­m­ic, chrono­log­i­cal study based pri­mar­i­ly on archival research, we opt­ed instead for a mosa­ic, with chap­ters about spe­cif­ic episodes or themes writ­ten either by indi­vid­u­als who had per­son­al­ly played a role in the WJC’s activ­i­ties and accom­plish­ments in ques­tion, or by schol­ars with a par­tic­u­lar inter­est in and knowl­edge of the sub­ject matter.

For the past ten years, the WJC’s per­sona has been shaped pri­mar­i­ly by Ambas­sador Laud­er who has imbued the orga­ni­za­tion with his vision and with a dis­tinct sense of pur­pose focus­ing on the chal­lenges con­fronting the Jew­ish peo­ple and Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties across the globe in the 21st cen­tu­ry. Pri­or to assum­ing the pres­i­den­cy of the WJC in 2007, Ambas­sador Laud­er had a dis­tin­guished career first as US Deputy Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense for Euro­pean and NATO Affairs and US Ambas­sador to Aus­tria under Pres­i­dent Rea­gan, and then as chair­man of the Con­fer­ence of Pres­i­dents of Major Jew­ish Orga­ni­za­tions and pres­i­dent of the Jew­ish Nation­al Fund. In 1987, he estab­lished the Ronald S. Laud­er Foun­da­tion which revi­tal­ized Jew­ish life in East­ern and Cen­tral Europe through a net­work of Jew­ish schools, kinder­gartens, camps and com­mu­ni­ty centers.

There is an old Hasidic tra­di­tion,” Ambas­sador Laud­er writes in the con­clud­ing chap­ter of The World Jew­ish Con­gress, 1936 – 2016, that inside every Jew there burns a flame. Some­times that flame is obscured, and the per­son can’t see it. But it is always there, it is always burn­ing. All you have to do is dust it off your heart and you will find it.… And this is the job before us now. We have to help our chil­dren and our grand­chil­dren dust off their hearts. We have to help them redis­cov­er that Jew­ish flame inside them.”

The WJC today also reflects the per­son­al­i­ty and pri­or­i­ties of Robert Singer, the organization’s CEO since May 2013, who had pre­vi­ous­ly served as senior edu­ca­tion­al offi­cer of the Israel Defense Forces, fol­lowed by twelve years with the Office of the Prime Min­is­ter in Israel in a num­ber of senior posts, most­ly deal­ing with the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties in the for­mer Sovi­et Union, and four­teen years as the CEO of World ORT, one of the world’s largest non-gov­ern­men­tal edu­ca­tion and train­ing net­work. Under Robert Singer’s pro­fes­sion­al lead­er­ship, the WJC has under­tak­en numer­ous major ini­tia­tives in fight­ing both anti-Semi­tism around the world and the ever-increas­ing efforts to dele­git­imize the State of Israel.