WJC president calls emergency meeting on antisemitism in colleges

Former president Reuven Rivlin received the WJC's Theodor Herzl Award for his leadership.

 Ronald Lauder speaks at the WJC gala dinner. (photo credit: NOA GRAYEVSKY)
Ronald Lauder speaks at the WJC gala dinner.
(photo credit: NOA GRAYEVSKY)

World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder has called an emergency meeting to intensify the fight against antisemitism on college campuses, Lauder announced at a gala dinner on Wednesday.

“Today’s hatred of Jews has set its focus on one target: the world’s only Jewish state, Israel,” Lauder said, adding that its enemies “are using a new weapon. … Now they may be succeeding at undermining Israel politically. And they are concentrating their efforts in high schools, colleges and universities to turn the next generation, even Jewish students, against Israel.”

The WJC president underscored the need for a unified global Jewish community.

At the gala dinner, Lauder awarded the organization's top honor, the Theodor Herzl Award to former Israeli president Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin for his leadership of Israel and Jewish communities around the world.

“During a challenging moment in Israeli politics, Reuven Rivlin’s positive voice, his optimism and his spirit, has always been a reminder of the profound vision of hope for the Jewish State that welcomes all people, of all religions, and all ethnic groups,” said Lauder. “From his earlier work in the Knesset through his presidency, Reuven Rivlin represents the very best of Israeli leadership.

 Ronald Lauder and Reuven Rivlin at the WJC gala dinner. (credit: SHAHAR AZRAN / WJC) Ronald Lauder and Reuven Rivlin at the WJC gala dinner. (credit: SHAHAR AZRAN / WJC)

Rivlin stressed that while the Jewish people have the “the historical, legal and moral right to sovereignty" in Israel, "sovereignty must also be earned by responsibility, by the fact that we respect our rights as a sovereign nation to uphold the civil rights of all citizens in our state."

"The State of Israel was built in 1948 according to two values… that Israel must be a Jewish, democratic state. Democratic and Jewish, Jewish and democratic — in one tone, in one breath,” said Rivlin.

Ken Burns receives award for Holocaust documentary

Later on in the event, Ken Burns, award-winning documentary filmmaker, received the seventh WJC Teddy Kollek Award for the Advancement of Jewish Culture for his 2022 series “The US and the Holocaust,” which depicts the plight of Europe’s vulnerable Jews and underscores the importance of WJC’s mission.

Burns was introduced by Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, former US Secretary of State and 2014 Theodor Herzl Award honoree.

Wednesday's dinner was conducted on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass. Besides for a commemoration at the galas, WJC also displayed digitally reconstructed images of four destroyed synagogues in Berlin, Dortmund, Frankfurt and Munich, Germany, on the buildings that replaced them.