Text size

In September 2004, the media in Switzerland and the U.S. reported that the chairman of the World Jewish Congress, Rabbi Israel Singer, was involved in the concealed spending of $1.2 million in WJC funds, which were deposited in a confidential bank account in Switzerland and in their transfer to an unknown bank account that was held in trust by Israeli attorney Zvi Barak.

The money was eventually returned to the WJC. But following reports in the media, then-attorney general of New York Eliot Spitzer began investigating the incident in late 2004. Spitzer found that Singer had removed the money without the knowledge of other WJC leaders, and that he intended to use it for pensions for himself and another employee.

Singer and his associates claimed at the time that the vice president of the WJC, Israeli-Australian businessman Isi Leibler was behind the leaking of the incident to the press. Leibler had long been battling Singer and Bronfman on the personal and political planes. Leibler demanded that Singer return the money to the WJC, shortly before the incident was publicized. In addition, an internal memorandum written by Leibler with a demand to investigate the irregularities in the organization was leaked to the press at around the same time.

Within a short time Leibler was transformed from an accuser to the accused: He felt ostracized within the organization and decided to resign from it in January 2005. In early 2006, at around the same time the Spitzer report was released, the WJC filed a $6 million libel suit against Leibler in a Tel Aviv court. The suit against Leibler sparked a wave of protests in Jewish communities around the world, and last July the WJC announced that it was withdrawing the suit. In early 2007, the court ordered the WJC to pay Leibler the sum of NIS 200,000 plus VAT to cover his court expenses. (Amiram Barkat)