Austrian Jewish leader, WJC head Lauder mend ties

Row had stemmed from Lauder's alleged support of Oskar Deutsch's opponent in last year's IKG election.

Ronald Lauder 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Ronald Lauder 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
BERLIN – The president of Vienna’s roughly 7,700-member Jewish community (IKG), Oskar Deutsch, announced on Wednesday the resolution of a conflict between his organization and the head of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald S. Lauder, over interference in the IKG’s election process last year.
In a statement published on the Vienna community’s website, Deutsch said he met with Lauder on January 13 in Vienna and, in the context of the talks, the “differences were reconciled.” According to Deutsch’s statement, Lauder regretted his approach and stressed that he had in no way intended to influence the November election.
Deutsch was elected president of the community and is the first post-Holocaust, Austrian-born Jew to run the community’s affairs.
As a result of the disagreement in November, Deutsch had barred Lauder from entering the IKG’s center. The mending of fences between Lauder and Deutsch led to a vote by the community’s council to unanimously rescind the non-visitation directive.
The controversy triggered coverage in the mass circulation daily The New York Post in early December. Lauder – a former US ambassador to Austria and a distinguished philanthropist of Jewish renewal in Europe and around the world, who had previously run for mayor of New York City – was accused of funding Deutsch’s opponent.
According to The New York Post, Lauder deposited “more than $700,000 into a lawyer’s account to help sway three factions to support his candidate, psychoanalyst Martin Engelberg.” Deutsch responded in the article that Lauder promised millions more to the pro-Engelberg factions.
The daily reported that Lauder did not deny his intervention. According to the article, the dispute outlined by Engelberg centered around his plan to promote social service programs over Deutsch’s concentration on building a new museum and archival research.
Engelberg’s Chai Jewish life party won 391 votes and three seats in the November election. Deutsch’s Atid party garnered the highest tally with 950 votes, giving it seven representatives in the local Jewish leadership.
Deutsch then formed a coalition with other factions in the community to continue his presidency.
The popular Vienna-based Jewish news website Die Jüdische reported on the meeting between Lauder and Deutsch. Samuel Laster, the site’s editor-in-chief, wrote that Lauder flew into Vienna from Israel and later departed for New York, with the reconciliation talk lasting 45 minutes.