World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder has been asked to stand aside by the organisation’s vice-president in the wake of accusations that he offered a large sum of money to influence an Austrian community leadership election in November.
Oskar Deutsch, the president of the Austrian Jewish community, last week alleged that Mr Lauder had offered more than 4.5 million euros to a number of community groups in Vienna in exchange for electing his preferred candidate.
WJC Vice-President Flo Kaufmann said the US billionaire must “stand aside because he’s been accused and it needs to be investigated. The problem is that we live in an atmosphere in which when allegations are made, a straightforward complaint is not the end — that’s just the way it is today.”
Mr Deutsch, who was re-elected in the November election, said: “[Mr Lauder] approached three running parties with a substantial offer of money… to elect Martin Engelberg as president.
“Beside the legal and halachic issues, we considered Mr Lauder’s action immoral and absolutely intolerable.”
Mr Deutsch added: “We are able to fight antisemites and the enemies of the Jewish people — but we cannot survive when Jewish leaders, who should protect and represent us, try to buy our elections.”
A spokesperson for the World Jewish Congress president said in a statement to the JTA, an online newspaper: “The allegations are despicable and without any basis in truth.”
The Austrian community has around 8,000 members and presidential elections take place every five years.