Bronfman urged to 'suspend' himself

WJC Israel chair says move necessary due to suspicions on financial matters.

matthew bronfman 88 298 (photo credit: Bloomberg)
matthew bronfman 88 298
(photo credit: Bloomberg)
The chairman of the New York-based World Jewish Congress in Israel has called on Matthew Bronfman, son of the Congress's president Edgar Bronfman, to suspend himself from the organization in the wake of allegations of financial improprieties in his former position at the Israel Discount Bank of New York. The call comes two weeks after the younger Bronfman resigned from his senior board position at the bank, and a week before a critical WJC meeting. The Congress is on the verge of a historic split following a bitter months-old internecine struggle in the organization. "Since suspicions on financial matters are involved, and out of a concern common to both of us for maintaining the status of the World Jewish Congress as a body clean of any suspicion, I request that you suspend yourself from Congress activity and from its financial matters until the cloud of suspicion has dissipated," wrote MK Shai Hermesh (Kadima) chairman of the WJC in Israel in a April 25 letter to Bronfman. "Such an important enterprise of 70 years, in which your father and many others invested for years, should not be impaired nor spoiled," he added. Matthew Bronfman, who serves as chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee at the WJC, is seen as a likely candidate to take over the organization when his father steps down. The demand for Bronfman's suspension comes amid burgeoning turmoil at the organization, including the sudden dismissal of veteran group chairman Israel Singer over allegations of financial improprieties, and a bitter struggle over control of its Israel office which threatens to split the seven-decade old organization. A spokesperson for the WJC on Tuesday called the letter "regretful but not surprising," and accused the Israeli parliamentarian of "twisting the facts to further his own personal political ambition." "As a recipient of charitable funds raised in the US, Mr. Hermesh's actions are meant to divert attention away from the financial irregularities and corporate governance improprieties at the branch that he chairs, in direct violation of US laws and regulations," the WJC spokesman said. "The WJC governing bodies will address the branch's financial irregularities and corporate governance improprieties as well as Mr. Hermesh's personal complaints and his unfortunate behavior in their future meetings," he added. Bronfman resigned from the board of Israel Discount Bank of New York last month following a board inquiry into whether he used his position to benefit himself, according to Crain's New York Business. The publication said that the bank has a history of run-ins with regulators. Bronfman has denied all allegations of impropriety. This latest public dispute comes just months before the expected presidental election of the World Jewish Congress when Edgar Bronfman, 77, will step down, having served in the position for a quarter century. The election, which has not been scheduled but could take place as early as a June, is expected to pit Bronfman's son Matthew against JNF President Ronald S. Lauder in what has already been billed as "the battle of the billionaires."