New Euro Jewish Union struggles to be accepted

By Toby Axelrod, March 1, 2012
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The fledgling European Jewish Union, already facing criticism over its establishment of a new European Jewish parliament, has been snubbed by the World Jewish Congress.

Last week, WJC president Ronald Lauder wrote to elected representatives of Jewish communities across Europe emphasising the WJC's support for its better-established affiliate group the European Jewish Congress as "the only true representative organisation of European Jewry".

The elections for the EJU's parliament descended into farce last year when it emerged that many candidates were unaware that they had been nominated to stand.

The EJU faced further embarrassment two weeks ago at the launch of the parliament, when the office of EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso sought to distance itself from the project after both the EJU and Chabad websites posted snapshots of members of both organisations with Barroso and Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations.

The EJU's parliament elections descended into farce last year

The photos, taken informally in a hallway, were "placed in a very misleading way", a spokesperson from Mr Barroso's office said.

The spokesperson added that Mr Barroso was neither present at the inauguration nor at "any events organised by the European Jewish Union", and did not meet any related delegations. "The Commission therefore requested the immediate removal of these pictures from the website of the EJU and Chabad."

Israel's Minister of Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein said this week that he hopes any new organisation would "closely co-ordinate its efforts with the existing Jewish communities."

Otherwise, he said, political leaders will get "thousands of calls a day with each one saying they represent the Jewish community. It is counterproductive."

Joel Rubinfeld, a member of the new parliament and former head of the Belgium's secular Jewish umbrella organisation, the CCOJB, is working with EJU founders - Ukrainian Jewish moguls Igor Kolomoisky and Vadim Rabinovich - to design a constitution for the parliament that will reflect the wishes of its members.

"It is not that they are building a new organisation where you have to obey their rules," Mr Rubinfeld said. "No. They made the institution and they want the 120 members to decide what the institution will be."

Mr Rubinfeld said he hoped leaders of existing Jewish organisations such as the EJC would eventually work together with the EJU.

    Last updated: 3:25pm, March 1 2012