Bronfman, WJC file suits against ex-chairman Israel Singer

Organization's ex-chairman accused of failing to repay $500,000 in loans.

Former World Jewish Congress president Edgar Bronfman and the organization have each filed civil suits in the last few days against Israel Singer, the group's former chairman, officials said Monday. The suit filed by Bronfman in a New York court alleges that Singer failed to pay back more than $500,000 in personal loans that triggered an investigation by the New York State Attorney General's Office into the WJC's finances in 2004. A second, smaller suit filed by the organization against Singer involves expenses such as frequent-flier miles and five-year-old office computers. Bronfman, 77, stepped down as WJC president in May after nearly a quarter century. He fired longtime associate and confidante Singer in March over allegations of financial improprieties in an organization that has been plagued by years of internecine turmoil. "I feel real sorry for Edgar Bronfman, who is allowing himself to be manipulated at this stage of his life by other people," Singer told The Jerusalem Post Monday. He has repeatedly rejected the allegations against him as baseless. Singer said he expected the issues to be fully resolved with the new WJC leadership, led by its current president, Ronald S. Lauder. WJC officials said the new lawsuit was initiated several months ago before Lauder's election in June. The officials said it was an 11th-hour move taken by WJC secretary-general Stephen E.Herbits before stepping down next month. They said the issue should have been dealt with by his successor, former Joint Distribution Committee leader Michael Schneider, who was vacationing and caught unaware of the move. It was not immediately known if Lauder was aware of the suits. His spokesman in Israel was not available for comment. Bronfman had previously accused Singer of taking "cash - my cash" from the organization. Singer has a three-decade record of service to the Jewish world, including working to free Russian Jewry and gaining billions of dollars in Holocaust restitution as a result of his work for the Claims Conference, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. The investigation by the New York State Attorney General's Office focused on a series of money transfers totaling $1.2 million from New York to a Swiss account. Singer was barred from any further financial role in the organization, but no evidence of criminal wrongdoing was found.