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Mr. Ronald S. Lauder Addresses Jerusalem Post Conference, Urges Israel Not to Leave Behind Next Generation
NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 29: President of the World Jewish Congress and Chair of the Jerusalem Post Conference Ronald S. Lauder (Photo by noa grayevsky/Getty Images for RSL Management)
NEW YORK CITY — Mr. Ronald S. Lauder on Sunday urged Israel to forge closer bonds with the next generation of the Jewish diaspora. Speaking to an audience of American and Israeli leaders in politics, business, and media at the 7th annual Jerusalem Post conference, Mr. Lauder argued Israel was at a crossroads in terms of its ability to be a major global player, and encouraged the country not to fall behind by educating and welcoming non-orthodox members of the faith.
“We need to remember that we are one people,” said Mr. Ronald S. Lauder. “From the most Orthodox to the most secular, from the most liberal to the most conservative, we are brothers and sisters united by a common goal: the survival and prosperity of Israel and the Jewish people.”
Mr. Lauder has served as President of the World Jewish Congress since 2007. This year marked the third that he has chaired the Jerusalem Post conference.
The annual Jerusalem Post Annual Conference brings together leading Israeli and American political figures, Israeli parliamentarians and government representatives, bipartisan representation from the U.S. Congress, and dozens of business, community and media figures.
The full text of Mr. Lauder’s speech as prepared is below:
Thank you, Yaakov.
As some of you know, ten teenage Israelis, bright young kids preparing to serve in the Army, with their entire lives ahead of them, perished on Thursday, taken from us by flash floods in the south of Israel. On the screen behind me are photos of the ten victims. I’d like to read each of their names, and then I ask you to join me in a moment of silence.
Ilan Bar Shalom
Thank you. May their memory be a blessing.
It’s an honor to serve as president of this conference for the third year in a row. Thank you, Eli Azur, for putting together such an impressive event. Today we have some great speakers, and I know we all look forward to hearing from them. We’re joined today by top Israeli ministers: Avigdor Liberman, Israel Katz, Yoav Gallant, Gila Gamliel, and Tzachi Hanegbi. We have a former Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert. We also have former Minister of Education Gideon Saar.
We have one of the most respected Republican Senators, Lindsey Graham, a great supporter of the Jewish state. And we have the great Democratic Senator Ben Cardin,
who has shown tremendous leadership in the fight against BDS.
We have ambassadors, academics, business leaders—including my great friend Charles Bronfman, who has devoted his life to strengthening ties between Israel and the Diaspora. It’s truly a remarkable group.
A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated Israel’s 70th birthday. Across Eretz Yisrael, from Haifa to Be’ersheba to Eilat streets were lined with blue and white flags, there was singing and dancing, as we toasted Israel’s strength and survival. But it was not just a day of joy. It was day of reflection.
Right now, Israel stands at a crossroads. It has two choices: It can continue to be a key power in the Middle East. Or it can become a major global force.
I believe Israel will choose to become a true global player. But before it does, it needs two things: First, it need to change its image. And secondly, it needs allies in every country.
The first place to look for allies is the Diaspora. The problem is the Diaspora today is not the same Diaspora of my generation or my parents’ generation. My generation believes in Israel 100%. Our bond with Israel is unbreakable.
But too many in the younger generation, are turning their backs on Israel. We need to ask ourselves why are they doing that, and what can be done to reverse it?
I believe we’re failing the current generation in two ways. The first is education and our failure to tell Israel’s true story. We’re not doing enough to educate young people about what it means to be Jewish and about the greatness of Israel.
Just this week, one of today’s speakers, Ambassador Dani Dayan, was heckled and harassed by BDS protesters while speaking at Syracuse University. That’s an outrage. But you know what upsets me even more? In reading about the incident, I saw no mention of anyone standing up to defend Israel. And that’s shameful!
Let me ask you a question: Instead of it being a Jewish leader who was harassed, what if it was a Black leader? Or a Muslim leader? Or any minority? Then it would have been front-page news. But when it’s a Jew, an Israeli, no one stands up and speaks out. The complicity is frightening. The silence is deafening.
There is no question: we have a double-standard in this country. And we need to end it – once and for all! Incidents like what happened at Syracuse should be a wake-up call. If we don’t do something, we risk losing an entire generation of Jews to anti-Israel propaganda and hatred.
And it’s not just a problem here in the U.S. As President of the World Jewish Congress, I’ve been to 40 countries representing 97% of the Jews in the world, and it’s the same story in every country.
So, what should we do?
First, Israel needs to devote substantial resources to telling its story. For political reasons, the money that was put aside for Hasbora has been used by other ministries. Imagine if Israel bought one less F-16 plane, and used that money on Hasbora. What a difference that would make!
At the same time that Israel has been spending less and less on public relations, our enemies are spending more and more. They devote millions of dollars to training anti-Israel operatives in the art of persuasion and propaganda. And they send these highly-trained operatives to college campuses to spread lie after lie about Israel, to make Jews look bad, and fan the flames of anti-Semitism. Today, more than ever, they’re succeeding. They’re convincing our youth that Israel is the pariah state, the evil state, the apartheid state.
What does Israel do in response? Nothing! Do they refute these lies? No! They’re silent. They allow our enemies, to define them.
In many ways, the World Jewish Congress serves as Israel’s foreign ministry. Which is a good thing, because Israel is probably the only country in the world right now that doesn’t have its own foreign minister! Every day, the World Jewish Congress strives to give young people the facts about Israel, not the garbage that fills their Facebook newsfeed. There’s only so much we can do on our own! To better reach the younger generation of Jews, we need help. We need help from you! And we need help from Israel.
The second step toward forging a closer bond between Israel and the next generation of Diaspora Jews will require Israel to rethink what it means to be Jewish.
When Herzl dreamed of a Jewish state, he never imagined the kind of religious monopoly that exists today in Israel. Today, the ultra-Orthodox dominate Israel’s politics. I know they believe they’re doing what needs to be done to protect the Jewish religion. And I commend them for that. However, what they’re really doing is alienating a whole generation of young, secular Jews.
I met last week with a father of four who’s been married for 25 years. His wife converted before they got married, but they were living in the Midwest at that time, and there wasn’t an Orthodox rabbi to do the conversion. So, his wife studied under a Conservative rabbi for six months, and she became Jewish. They built a Jewish home together. They observe the Jewish holidays together. They’re proud of their Jewish identity. And their children are even more proud! But the man learned that, in Israel, his four kids, his wife—are not considered Jewish. He was heartbroken. He loves Israel, but he doesn’t feel wanted there.
I hear stories like this over and over again.
Instead of pushing these Jews away, we need to bring them in. We need to remember that we are one people. From the most Orthodox to the most secular, from the most liberal to the most conservative, we are brothers and sisters united by a common goal: the survival and prosperity of Israel and the Jewish people.
I’m an optimist. I’ve met with leaders across the region, and around the world. And I believe Israel’s best days are ahead. And with the most pro-Israel president in American history, Donald J. Trump, I believe that peace is possible and within reach. And we all thank President Trump for his historic courage in moving the American embassy to Jerusalem.
Israel needs to understand they need the diaspora. And the next generation of Diaspora Jews need to understand they need Israel.
Let’s do everything we can to educate them – to help them understand the greatness of Israel, and the greatness of Judaism. Let them have the same pride that we have. And let’s all work together – Israelis and the Diaspora – as one people.
I’d like to close by playing you a short video. In the 35 schools I run in Central and Eastern Europe, we’ve educated 35,000 students over the past 30 years. The students range from semi-secular to modern Orthodox. But in the video you’re about to watch, you won’t be able to tell the difference. What you’ll see is a common sense of pride in these children’s faces. That’s the pride we must instill in all Jews, all across the Diaspora.
And now, let me play you a love song called Hatikva. Please rise.
My dream is that one day, every Jewish kid everywhere in the world, will know the words to that beautiful song.
God bless you. God bless the United States of America. And God bless the Jewish state of Israel.
Leading Law Enforcement Organization Hails Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder
[Left to Right] Mr. Richard Kendall – Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder – Commissioner Ray Kelly – Governor Tom Ridge. (Photo by noa grayevsky/Getty Images)
Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder was honored Monday night April 23, 2018 at the Plaza Hotel in New York by the Federal Enforcement Homeland Security Foundation, receiving its Lifetime Achievement Award.
Former New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly praised Lauder, saying he has “a profound commitment to public service.” “Ronald has dedicated his life to helping other people,” Kelly said, “and he’s never wavered in his staunch support for law enforcement.”
“Even as we face challenges and threats like never before,” Ambassador Lauder said addressing federal agents past and present, and their families, “America is with you.”
“Our nation is in your debt,” said Lauder, “and we will not take you for granted.”
Mr. Lauder, who served in the Pentagon and as U.S. Ambassador to Austria during the Reagan Administration, has been President of the World Jewish Congress since 2007.
Mr. Rapoport has been a TV News producer since 1980 working for major U.S. Television Networks' news organizations: ABC News & NBC News.
Mr. Rapoport is a recipient of two times American EMMY Award for producing TV reports, one with ABC News 20/20 and the other one with NBC News Nightly News with Tom Brokaw. Investigative Reporting segment
Mr. Rapoport has been with JCS since 1994 first as a VP News and since 2010 he has been the company’s CEO.
Mr. Rapoport holds a B.F.A in Film & Television, and a M.Sc. degree from Syracuse University, Syracuse NY
Mr. Balashnikov has been involved in the civil service since early 1990s for nearly 20 years holding top executive positions within the government and Parliament, including Director General of the Knesset, Director General the President's house, Director General of the Ministry of Communications, Director General of the Office of the State Comptroller.
Mr. Balashnikov joined the private sector in 2009 as Chairman of the Board of the Ronald Lauder Center for Employment in the Negev, Chairman of JCS - Jerusalem Capital Studios Group and Chairman of the Board of Channel 10.
Mr. Balashnikov holds a B.A in Political Science.
Ms. Grayevsky has a vast experience as a journalist and has tremendous managerial experience involved in top managerial positions running private media and television companies. Among her duties were positions as a board member, Chairman, Vice President and President.
Ms. Grayevsky was ranked in 2013 by the leading business newspaper “Globes" as the 7th among the 100 most influential people in media.
Ms. Grayevsky has a degree from Harvard Business School in Executive Management and also holds a Masters in Media.
Ms. Grayevsky is also part of the following boards; she is on the CMEPP Advisory Board for RAND Corporation International, International Emmys, on the Board of Advisors for the U.N. Women for Peace, and Vice Chair of Media for RSL Management and is a full member of the LIMMUD FSU International Steering Committee.
Ronald S. Lauder
Ronald S. Lauder is a longtime media investor, international philanthropist, noted art collector, and a foremost leader of Jewish causes. He currently serves as President of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), a position he has held for a decade.
As president of the WJC, Lauder is one of the most prominent and influential leaders in the Jewish world. Lauder regularly meets with heads of state, legislators, and high-ranking government officials to advance the interests of world Jewry. A staunch defender of the state of Israel, he is committed to securing a vibrant future for the Jewish homeland.
From 1983 to 1986, Lauder worked at the Pentagon as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Affairs. In 1986, he was appointed by President Reagan as U.S. Ambassador to Austria. During his service in Vienna, he built strong diplomatic bonds between Austria and the U.S. while personally repudiating then-President Kurt Waldheim’s Nazi past.
Lauder’s confrontation with anti-Semitism during his diplomatic posting led him to explore his own Judeo-Hungarian roots. Contrary to the then-prevailing wisdom, Lauder believed that eastern and central European Jews, devastated by the Holocaust and stifled by decades of communism, would embrace their heritage if given the chance. He established The Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, which focuses on Jewish education and community outreach programs, to revitalize Jewish life in the region.
In 1997, Lauder was elected President of the Jewish National Fund, a charitable organization focused on the development of Israeli land and infrastructure. After a decade as President, Lauder became Chairman of the Board in 2007, a position he still holds.
In 2001, Lauder founded The Neue Galerie for German and Austrian Art in New York City. He was Chairman of the Museum of Modern Art from 1995 to 2005, and is now Honorary Chairman.
Lauder is a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Lauder: The Jewish People Are Ready to Face any Challenge
Lauder: The Jewish People Are Ready to Face any Challenge
The following is a Passover interview with Ronald S. Lauder, originally published by The Jewish Voice
JV: It’s a tumultuous time around the world—here in the U.S., in Europe, across the Middle East, even in Israel. What should Jews be thankful for this Passover?
RSL: We should celebrate not just our freedom from slavery, but our strength as a people. Yes, there are some worrying signs of divergence and disagreement, but there are even more signs of unity. Jewish communities flourishing across the globe. The two-thousand-year-old dream of a sovereign Israel is a beautiful reality, from which Jews everywhere draw strength and inspiration. The are of the quiet Jew is long behind us; the Jewish people are ready to face any challenge.
JV:Thinking about those challenges, what are the most pressing issues for world Jewry today?
RSL: Rising anti-Semitism threatens Jews in Israel and around the world. We must be ever-vigilant to confront this age-old scourge wherever and however it rears its ugly head, including on new fronts like social media. At the same time, we need to look within, and ask ourselves what can be done about the fact that so many young Jews lack the same sense of peoplehood—amiyut—and a connection to Israel that my generation had. Intermarriage and assimilation rates are rising, and different denominations are growing further apart. We need to educate the next generation to embrace their religion, their Jewish identity, and their homeland, the State of Israel.
JV: Yes, according to recent polls, support for Israel among younger American Jews, especially those who identify as politically liberal, is declining. What do you make of this shift, and what can be done to reverse it?
RSL: American support for Israel has been strongest and most resilient when it has been bipartisan. Unfortunately, gaps have emerged and there are forces—including some on the left—that want to drive a wedge into Jewish solidarity with Israel. The BDS movement is one of these forces, though so far it remains largely defeated and marginalized.
It is our responsibility to adequately explain to young American Jews the importance of backing Israel, including how Zionism fits into a liberal and progressive outlook. We at the World Jewish Congress have conducted our own polling. We understand the challenge, what needs to be done about it, and we’re going after the root causes to expose BDS’s lies. We need to do better to get our messages out—the truth about Israel—to reinforce and strengthen the support the Jewish state needs and deserves.
JV: Pharaoh is sometimes called the world’s first anti-Semite. How threatening is anti-Semitism to the Jewish people today?
RSL:The story of Passover teaches us that the Jewish people are resilient, and it also reminds us to be humble and to appreciate our modern freedoms, for we know the bitter experience of bondage and slavery. Passover also bestows a lesson of activism, of the importance of taking fate into our own hands and to be fearless in defending our faith and our freedom.
That’s a lesson that still resonates today, when anti-Semitism remains a constant and evolving threat. That’s why I’m working with former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, one of the world’s most respected security experts, on a project to assess the security requirements of certain Jewish communities in Europe. I’m also traveling from country to country with the World Jewish Congress, meeting senior officials and heads of government to work on solutions. In fighting anti-Semitism, we must be vigilant and united.
JV: Poland’s senate recently passed a controversial bill that outlaws blaming Poland for crimes committed during the Shoah. You’ve forcefully condemned the law. What do you think is the path forward there?
RSL:This bill brought a firestorm of ill-will and should have no bearing on the Jewish revival happening there. Jewish life in Central and Eastern Europe is finally recovering from the Second World War, and, in Poland, bilateral relations with Israel have never been stronger. The entire controversy should be dialed back, and I hope to see Polish and Jewish leaders sit down to get back to where everyone belongs—as friends, neighbors and fellow citizens.
JV:Israel has historically been a political punching bag at the United Nations. Do you think that’s beginning to change under Nikki Haley?
RSL: Ambassador Haley’s voice at the United Nations has been a breath of fresh air. Decades of deep-seated hostility and unfair treatment of Israel can’t be changed overnight, but she has already made incredible progress by reaffirming American strength and demanding justice in the U.N.’s halls. I’m pleased to call Ambassador Haley my friend, I pray for her strength and success, and I know that our community is cheering for her.
JV: Do you see other signs of hope for improved relations between Israel and the global community?
RSL: Dialogue is key to improving relations. That is why I am committed to supporting institutions of higher education, like Israel’s cutting-edge Technion and the IDC in Herzliya, and it’s why I established an employment center in the Negev, in cooperation with Ben-Gurion University, in order to increase opportunities for Jews and Arabs. It is also why I started an “Olive Branch” project to facilitate discussions between Muslims, Jews and Catholics. Dialogue humanizes conflict, and education gives individuals and communities a stake in our shared future.
JV:From Saudi Arabia to Lebanon to Yemen, the Middle East’s political landscape is undergoing tectonic changes. How would you characterize Israel’s position in this evolving environment?
RSL: Israel has shown itself to be a strong and adaptive geopolitical player, constructing strategic alliances, countering the existential threat of a nuclear Iran and collaborating in the fight against terrorism. For example, there’s been unprecedented intelligence sharing on ISIS between Israel, Egypt and Jordan. The rest of the Middle East is starting to see that a strong Israel is a source of stability, and the world is finally understanding that the problems of the Middle East cannot be pinned on Israel.
JV: What about the stalled peace process? Why do you believe so strongly in the necessity of a two-state solution?
RSL: The pursuit of peace is vital to preserving Israel’s character as a Jewish and democratic state. A fundamental tenet of Zionism is that the Jewish people should be free, sovereign, safe, and secure in our own land. Although there have been setbacks and failures, there are still majorities on all sides that want peace. The two-state solution remains a top priority for me. I believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Abbas and President Trump have a unique chance to achieve progress and enable Israelis and Palestinians to build bridges toward a more promising future for both peoples.
JV: A theme of Passover is being a stranger in another land. The Israeli government recently announced that it would deport tens of thousands of African migrants. Is that the right decision?
RSL:Given the Jewish people’s own troubled past, I believe that Israel must always have open arms, especially for anyone fleeing mass atrocities and persecution. And it has: Israel has provided refuge for upwards of 60,000 Africans fleeing war and strife over the past 10-15 years. As for the Israeli government’s latest decisions, I hope an alternative path forward can be found, and the international community should also do more to assist Israel as it shoulders this unanticipated burden.
Many of the African migrants escaped gruesome conditions, thousands fled persecution and atrocities in Sudan, many were victims of trafficking and torture in Sinai, and thousands more fled Eritrea’s gulag, where young men face the prospect of seemingly indefinite conscription into a dictator’s army. Natan Sharansky has spoken out, as has former Attorney General and Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein.
JV: Israel will soon celebrate its 70th birthday. What do you think the Jewish homeland will look like in another 70 years?
RSL: In the face of conflict, we tend to lose our optimism. But I am confident that in 70 years the fighting will be over. There will be peace and prosperity in Israel, with Jews and Arabs living together in harmony. I share Herzl’s dream and believe his vision of Zionism will continue to be fulfilled.
Israel’s Self-Inflicted Wounds
Israel’s Self-Inflicted Wounds.
The following is an op-ed by Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder.
As the state of Israel approaches its 70th anniversary, I am filled with pride as I watch the vulnerable Jewish state of my childhood evolve into the strong and prosperous nation it is today.
As president of the World Jewish Congress, I believe that Israel is central to every Jew’s identity, and I feel it is my second home. Yet today I fear for the future of the nation I love.
True, the Israeli Army is stronger than any other army in the Middle East. And yes, Israel’s economic prowess is world renowned: In China, India and Silicon Valley, Israel’s technology, innovation and entrepreneurship are venerated.
But the Jewish democratic state faces two grave threats that I believe could endanger its very existence.
The first threat is the possible demise of the two-state solution. I am conservative and a Republican, and I have supported the Likud party since the 1980s. But the reality is that 13 million people live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. And almost half of them are Palestinian.
If current trends continue, Israel will face a stark choice: Grant Palestinians full rights and cease being a Jewish state or rescind their rights and cease being a democracy.
To avoid these unacceptable outcomes, the only path forward is the two-state solution.
President Trump and his team are wholly committed to Middle East peace. Arab states such as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are now closer to Israel than they have ever been, and contrary to news media reports, senior Palestinian leaders are, they have personally told me, ready to begin direct negotiations immediately.
But some Israelis and Palestinians are pushing initiatives that threaten to derail this opportunity.
Palestinian incitement and intransigence are destructive. But so, too, are annexation plans, pushed by those on the right, and extensive Jewish settlement-building beyond the separation line. Over the last few years, settlements in the West Bank on land that in any deal is likely to become part of a Palestinian state, have continued to grow and expand. Such blinkered Israeli policies are creating an irreversible one-state reality.
The second, two-prong threat is Israel’s capitulation to religious extremists and the growing disaffection of the Jewish diaspora. Most Jews outside of Israel are not accepted in the eyes of the Israeli ultra-Orthodox, who control ritual life and holy places in the state. Seven million of the eight million Jews living in America, Europe, South America, Africa and Australia are Modern Orthodox, Conservative, Reform or secular. Many of them have come to feel, particularly over the last few years, that the nation that they have supported politically, financially and spiritually is turning its back on them.
By submitting to the pressures exerted by a minority in Israel, the Jewish state is alienating a large segment of the Jewish people. The crisis is especially pronounced among the younger generation, which is predominantly secular. An increasing number of Jewish millennials — particularly in the United States — are distancing themselves from Israel because its policies contradict their values. The results are unsurprising: assimilation, alienation and a severe erosion of the global Jewish community’s affinity for the Jewish homeland.
Over the last decade I have visited Jewish communities in over 40 countries. Members in every one of them expressed to me their concern and anxiety about Israel’s future and its relationship to diaspora Jewry.
Many non-Orthodox Jews, myself included, feel that the spread of state-enforced religiosity in Israel is turning a modern, liberal nation into a semi-theocratic one. A vast majority of Jews around the world do not accept the exclusion of women in certain religious practices, strict conversion laws or the ban of egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall. They are bewildered by the impression that Israel is abandoning the humanistic vision of Theodor Herzl and taking on a character that does not suit its own core values or the spirit of the 21st century.
The leadership of the Jewish world always honors the choices made by the Israeli voter and acts in concert with Israel’s democratically elected government. I’m also keenly aware that Israelis are on the front lines, making sacrifices and risking their own lives every day so that Jews worldwide will survive and thrive. I count myself forever in their debt.
But sometimes loyalty requires a friend to speak out and express an inconvenient truth. And the truth is that the specter of a one-state solution and the growing rift between Israel and the diaspora are endangering the future of the country I love so dearly.
We are at a crossroads. The choices that Israel makes in the coming years will determine the destiny of our one and only Jewish state — and the continued unity of our cherished people.
We must change course. We must push for a two-state solution and find common ground among ourselves so that we can ensure the success of our beloved nation.