He can't run for Euro Jewish Parliament — he’s dead

By Toby Axelrod, October 27, 2011
Sacha Baron Cohen

Sacha Baron Cohen

What's the hardest thing about starting a European Jewish parliament? Being taken seriously, if the European Jewish Union's experience is anything to go by.

In its farcical first election, launched last week, many of those who had been listed as candidates only found out that they had been nominated when they read the promotional material sent out by the EJU in an email blitz announcing the poll.

The "free nomination" system, in which anyone could nominate anyone without prior consultation, produced further freak results.

David Beckham, Sacha Baron Cohen and Stella McCartney turned up on the British list. And in Hungary, it emerged that one recommended candidate had been dead for eight years.

A number of those nominated have asked for their names to be removed.

The aim of the new Brussels-based parliament is to "to bring together and co-ordinate the voices of Jewish communities and individuals" across Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Its parent body, the EJU, was launched in April at Disneyland Paris by Ukrainian-Israeli billionaires Igor Kolomoisky and Vadim Rabinovich.

Viviane Teitelbaum, a former head of the Belgian Jewish community, said she found out that she had been nominated only when she started getting emails saying: "We voted for you."

Of the dozen candidates in France, Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic and Germany contacted by the JC, only one, Yossi Lempkowitz, managing director of the European Jewish Press, had volunteered as a candidate.

Tomer Orni, chief executive officer of the EJU, explained that if someone is elected without wanting to be, the EJU simply selects the runner-up. Mr Orni argued that the new parliament was designed to be a move "away from behind-closed-doors community dealings to the next stage: democracy, representation from all across Europe, and west and east together as equals."

The European Jewish Congress and European Council of Jewish Communities have issued internal memos to calm their members when they started asking how they had got on the list.

Last updated: 3:04pm, October 27 2011