WJC official named Clinton gay liaison

Stephen Herbits appointed liaison to the gay and lesbian community.

By ETGAR LEFKOVITS
July 23, 2007 00:35
2 minute read.
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The outgoing controversial secretary-general of the New York-based World Jewish Congress Stephen E. Herbits has been appointed as a liaison to the gay and lesbian community for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. The move comes just weeks after Herbits announced his intention to step down from the once-prominent Jewish organization, which has been fraught with infighting and allegations of financial mismanagement. Herbits, 64, an open gay activist, has been appointed to Clinton's LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Americans for Hillary, a national committee of more than 65 gay and lesbian officials who have openly endorsed Clinton for president and who will be charged with fundraising and communications with the gay and lesbian community in the United States, according to a Clinton campaign press release. He is listed on the release about the creation of the committee as a businessman. "I am proud to have the support of such distinguished leaders in the LGBT community," Clinton said. "Together, we can move our nation closer to the promise of fairness and equality that all Americans deserve." Herbits is due to be replaced at the WJC by the executive vice president of B'nai B'rith International, Dan Mariaschin, but the appointment, which was first reported in The Jerusalem Post earlier this month, has not gone into effect. Mariaschin, who was in Israel last week, is due to take up his position in the coming weeks, an official said Sunday. The appointment of a new secretary-general of the WJC is part of the organizational changes that recently elected WJC President Ronald S. Lauder had pledged to take before taking the helm of the once-powerful organization in June. Herbits's resignation, which was long sought by Israeli and European officials of the organization, follows months of bitter fighting in the organization over control of the Israel office, an issue that has not been resolved. The dispute in the organization stemmed from the appointment of Israeli Ambassador to the European Union Oded Eran to head the Jerusalem office of the World Jewish Congress. The appointment was seen by members of the Israeli board as an attempt by the organization's New York-based secretary-general to bypass the Jerusalem office with a hand-picked appointment who will serve as his personal emissary. As the dispute flared, Herbits was forced to apologize for making an ethnic slur against the Tunisian-born former president of the European Jewish Congress, Pierre Besnainou. The remarks, which were written in an internal memo, likened Besnainou to an Arab. Herbits was originally brought to the organization by former WJC President Edgar M. Bronfman as part of an attempt to clean up the group following much-publicized allegations of financial mismanagement. Last month, a Lauder spokesman had said that Herbits would remain in his position for an as yet unspecified "transition period."

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