Lauder taps former Joint leader for WJC No. 2

Decision comes after previous appointment of senior Bnai Brith leader unexpectedly falls through.

lauder 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
lauder 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The president of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald S. Lauder, has decided to appoint Michael Schneider, the former executive vice president of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, as the organization's secretary general, officials said on Thursday. Schneider is expected to take up the post next month, the officials said, after being approved by the organization. Lauder was elected president of the WJC two months ago. His previous candidate for the secretary general position, B'nai B'rith International Executive Vice President Dan Mariaschin, unexpectedly turned down the offer in a still-unclear turn of events, with some claiming that outgoing secretary-general Stephen E. Herbits helped scuttle the deal. Lauder himself denied that Herbits was involved in the affair. Herbits announced his resignation during the WJC election in June, but has remained active in the organization even as he was appointed as a liaison to the gay and lesbian community for Sen. Hilary Clinton's presidential campaign. The WJC appointment is seen as a renewed attempt by Lauder, a cosmetics magnate and philanthropist, to breathe new life into an organization that has been plagued by internal wrangling and allegations of financial mismanagement. A Lauder spokesman in Israel declined to comment on Thursday. Schneider said that the news of his impending appointment came as a "somewhat sudden" event, an indication of the difficulty Lauder has been having in filling the post. A former senior WJC official who actively campaigned for Lauder in the June race said Thursday it was "inexplicable" that Herbits remained in office, and called on him to step down immediately. "Herbits was originally a key element in the cover-up of the financial irregularities and scandals which led to the moral, financial and political collapse of the WJC," said Isi Leibler, a former vice-president of the organization. "He was also instrumental in demonizing those who tried to reform the organization from within." Leibler himself had been blacklisted in a WJC memo along with other former senior WJC officials such as Israel Singer and Bobby Brown. Herbits' resignation, which was long sought by Israeli and European officials of the organization, follows months of internal infighting over control of the WJC Israel office. Meanwhile, the WJC has two Jerusalem offices that do not communicate with each other.