Groups scrap for right to lead European Jewry

By Toby Axelrod, December 15, 2011

Established European Jewish leaders have criticised the European Jewish Union (EJU), a recently formed leadership body, for potentially weakening the voice of European Jewry.

In a letter delivered last week to European Union, 16 representatives of Jewish communities from the UK to Serbia argued that the EJU is an attempt to "divide or misrepresent us or our communities".

The charge has been vehemently rejected by the EJU, which has launched web-based elections for a European Jewish parliament, a news channel and an ADL-style initiative against antisemitism since it was started last May by Ukrainian-Israeli philanthropists Igor Kolomoisky and Vadim Rabinovitch.

"We believe that no one has the monopoly on promoting Jewish interests in Europe," the EJU wrote after seeing a copy of the letter.

But its signatories, members of the European Jewish Congress (EJC), claimed that the EJU, with its proposed parliament including candidates who were unaware of being nominated, "could disturb the equilibrium, built on years of hard work and co-operation".

The letter was hand-delivered to European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. There has been no official response yet.

Signatory Tomas Kraus, president of the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic, said: "It is important to be one voice", particularly given increasing antisemitism today.

The EJU reaction continued: "How can anyone object, in the era we live in, [to] the first ever pan-European, West-East, popular, democratic, all-inclusive and transparent elections using the internet?"

Critics have claimed that the web-based elections were not transparent because it was impossible to ensure that nominators or voters were Jewish. EJU CEO Tomer Orni said only one vote per person is possible.

If someone has won who did not wish to be involved, the runner-up will be contacted, he added. The election ended on Thursday.

The European Jewish Press reported more than 170,000 votes as of early November. The latest figures available from Google Adplanner show 52,000 unique visitors in October.

Meanwhile, the implication that existing Jewish groups are undemocratic is "complete nonsense", Tomas Kraus said. The EJC "consists of representatives of local Jewish communities who have been democratically elected".

Last updated: 2:09pm, December 15 2011