European Jewish Leader Calls For Unity Within His Organization

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The head of the European Jewish Congress, Russian Moshe Kantor, has called all affiliated Jewish communities for unity, one week after three countries left the Jewish body to protest a vote extending retroactively the president’s term limits.

France, Austria and Portugal suspended their membership in the European Jewish body after an extraordinary general assembly in Paris extended term limits of Kantor’s presidency from 2 to 4 years.

In the meantime, a fourth country, Germany, also announced its decision to leave the EJC over the controversial vote.

In a statement issued on Monday, the Central Council of Jews in Germany condemned “the methods of EJC President Moshe Kantor” as “deeply disturbing.”

In a letter to the EJC’s 42 affiliated Jewish communities, Moshe Kantor stated: “I can assure you that no efforts will be spared in rebuilding the unity of our organization. We recommend establishing, without delay, a reconciliation commission, composed of 5 or 6 members of our organization, in order to solve this issue.”

“We sincerely hope to achieve unity and continue our work as one family, since we don’t have the privilege to do otherwise.”

He added: “We are one: what binds us is much more important than the differences that can occur from time to time.”

He said the decision of the four separating countries “is guided only by their unwillingness to welcome an Eastern European leader to the helm of the EJC.”

Kantor succeeded French Pierre Besnainou in 2007 after being elected for a two-year term.

Richard Prasquier, head of CRIF, the umbrella representative body of French Jewish organizations, told EJP that the decision to suspend his EJC participation “had nothing to do with the fact the president is Russian.” “The extension of the president’s mandate for two more years without using the normal way was «unethical and illegal, that’s all,» he said.

Kantor called next week’s ‘Global Forum on Anti-Semitism’ to be held in Jerusalem “an ideal opportunity to engage in fruitful dialogue and find pragmatic solutions to these issues confronting our Jewish communities.”

He said that in the wake of the upcoming commemoration of Israel’s 60th anniversary “the European Jewish community should rally under the umbrella of the EJC and in so doing commit itself towards fostering the common destiny of the Jewish people in the diaspora and the state of Israel.”

Stefan Kramer, secretary general of the German Jewish umbrella body, has said that he’d rather see the EJC’s “success story continue” than build an alternative organization, as some other countries have reportedly proposed.