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A senior official in the New York-based World Jewish Congress who was defeated earlier this month by Ronald S. Lauder in the race for presidency of the organization said Sunday that former WJC president and veteran group leader Edgar M. Bronfman did not act properly in the run-up to the elections.
The remarks, made by the South African steel magnate Mendel Kaplan in an interview with The Jerusalem Post, were his first public comments since he was defeated by Lauder earlier this month, and reflected his deep disappointment with the former veteran group leader, and Bronfman's son Matthew, over how they allegedly used him.
The elder Bronfman had asked Kaplan at a May group meeting at which he announced his long-anticipated resignation, to head the WJC for the next 18 months, and even urged all members of the group's steering committee to support his choice.
Yet just three weeks later, Matthew Bronfman had teamed up with Ronald Lauder in the race, leaving Kaplan stunned and dumbfounded.
"I do not think that this was correct behavior," Kaplan told the Post.
Moreover, the younger Bronfman e-mailed Kaplan to inform him of the surprise deal at the same time news of the merger was released to the press.
Kaplan said he knew that without the elder Bronfman's support, it would be difficult to win the election, but decided against quitting the race as the younger Bronfman had suggested in his e-mail.
"It is not in my nature, my persona to accept such behavior," he said.
Kaplan also clarified that one of his conditions for running to begin with was that the organization's controversial secretary-general, Stephen E. Herbits, be replaced. Herbits has been at the center of an as-yet unresolved internecine dispute with the organization's Israel branch over control of the Jerusalem office.
Herbits resigned from the organization, plagued for several years by internal fighting and allegations of financial mismanagement, immediately after the WJC election, but has remained in his posting for a transition period.
Lauder is expected to name a replacement as early as Monday.
Kaplan called the appointment of a new secretary-general in the organization a "moment of opportunity" for a new beginning.
"I am confident that Lauder understands the issues and will solve the problem," Kaplan said of the open dispute with the Israel office.
He said that resolving the personality problem and creating unity among the fractious WJC offices around the world would determine the future success of the once-powerful organization.
Neither a spokesman for the WJC nor the Bronfmans was available to comment on Kaplan's remarks by press time.
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