The chairman of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), Edgar Bronfman, is acting to implement an ambitious reorganization to "adapt the WJC to the new era of the 21st century."
In a confidential internal memorandum distributed this week among WJC leaders and activists, Bronfman outlines the steps he has taken to modernize the organization to reflect the global changes of the past few years and demographic changes in the Jewish world.
Senior Jewish leaders in New York yesterday described Bronfman's steps as "drastic and sweeping."
"Bronfman's decision to shake up the congress and revolutionize its activity patterns is expected to impact other Jewish organizations in the United States, whose influence has been declining in recent years," one senior Jewish official said.
The most significant move Bronfman made is to appoint Seagram's former executive vice president for external affairs, Stephen E. Herbits, as transition manager. Herbits will direct the WJC's administrative affairs until the new constitution is fully implemented.
In the memorandum, Bronfman recounts Herbits' ample experience in transition management, based on his work as a consultant to the United States Department of Defense, where he helped manage the transition in 2001 from the Clinton administration to Bush's.
The memorandum also strengthens the position of Dr. Israel Singer, Bronfman's deputy and the WJC's chief political officer.
Bronfman set up a steering committee to function as a transitional management body to "reflect the ultimate composition of the WJC under the new constitution."
The WJC was founded in 1936 by Nahum Goldmann and is run today by community functionaries in more than 80 countries throughout the world.
In recent years the WJC has been shaken by internal struggles between functionaries striving to give it a pronounced right-wing character on Jewish and Israeli issues, and those, including Bronfman and Singer, who advocate bolstering the WJC's liberal and pan-Jewish character.
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