WJC tries to bypass own Jerusalem office

Exclusive: Group's secretary-general creates duplicate organization in Israel.

jp.services1 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
The secretary general of the New York-based World Jewish Congress, who is at the heart of a tense standoff with the Jerusalem office over control of the Israel office, has created a virtual duplicate of the organization in Israel, WJC officials said Thursday. The new company, which has been called the 'World Jewish Congress,' was registered with the Justice Ministry on May 10 as a foreign daughter company of a Swiss-based NGO, according to legal documents obtained by The Jerusalem Post. The establishment of the company was carried out by the Israeli legal counsel of the World Jewish Congress, Danziger Klagsbald and Company Law Offices, on behalf of the secretary general of the organization, Stephen E. Herbits, the officials said. Herbits, who is listed as one of 11 directors of the new company along with 10 members of the organization's Israel steering committee, has been locked in a bitter feud with the Jerusalem office stemming from his desire to appoint Israeli Ambassador to the European Union Oded Eran as the head of the Jerusalem office. The Jerusalem office of the World Jewish Congress has been listed as a non-profit organization in Israel for over a quarter of a century. The establishment of the new company with the very same name was done without the knowledge of the Israeli board members, two officials said. Jewish Agency Chairman Ze'ev Bielski, who is listed as one of the directors of the new company, said Thursday through a spokesman that he was not a member of the new company and had no intention of ever being one. Another member, Mati Drobless, who served as a former head of the Israeli board of the WJC, said he was not asked or consulted about being a director of the new company either. The Justice Ministry spokesman said Thursday in a statement that "following The Jerusalem Post's query, the matter will be checked out, and if the company was indeed listed with the same name as an existing non-profit organization and without their consent then the registrar of companies will weigh changing the company's name." The executive director of the World Jewish Congress in Israel Bobby Brown referred all queries on the matter to the New York office of the World Jewish Congress. "The registered Israeli non profit organization is governed by the Israel Branch Executive and not the WJC Steering Committee, Governing Board or Plenary Assembly," the New York office of the World Jewish Congress said in a written statement late Thursday. "To fulfill its mission at any given time, the WJC has hired professionals or established offices in different locations." "The existence of these offices in no way has ever affected the autonomy of the local Jewish community and or affiliate of the WJC." Meanwhile, negotiations continue between the Jerusalem and New York offices to reach an eleventh-hour compromise over Eran's appointment, which is slated to go into effect on Monday, one day after he ends his diplomatic career. One proposal being considered would see a six-month freeze of the status quo at the organization's Jerusalem office.