An independent audit of the World Jewish Congress is being performed now for presentation at the group’s plenary next month in Brussels, according to the president of the WJC’s American section.
“It is an outside, independent audit,” said the official, Evelyn Sommer. “It is very important to make it very clear that the allegations of Isi Leibler have no basis. … I would hope that everything would be public. There is no reason it should not be.”
Leibler, a WJC vice president, was stripped of his membership on the group’s steering committee in September and was asked to cease all work in behalf of the organization.
The move came after Leibler sent a lengthy memo to the WJC’s steering and executive committees claiming that the organization lacks proper checks and balances.
He raised questions about a series of transactions involving $1.2 million, and he called for an independent audit of the group’s financial affairs.
The actions against him, Leibler charged, were a reprisal designed to silence whistle-blowers who called for fiscal transparency and a comprehensive, independent audit of the organization.
Leibler apparently was unaware of the existence of an independent audit of the WJC when he wrote a memo Tuesday to The Jewish Week repeating his call for such a review.
He claimed that although the WJC has more than 400,000 American donors, it has “not submitted a breakdown of expenses and disbursements to any executive or Finance Committee over the past 10 years. Anything less than a thorough independent audit will be considered a cover-up.”
Stephen Herbits, the WJC’s transition director, declined to discuss the audit under way, but he said the organization’s “finance committee will be reporting to the assembly and reporting on a large number of issues having to do with governance and budgets and audits.
I am not going to be more specific.”
But he added: “I have to put this whole transparency issue to rest. … It will be a non-issue by the end of the assembly.”
Herbits said that all of the WJC’s activities would be “open to the public and the press.”
Sommer said Brussels was selected for the plenary “because with the death of [Palestinian President Yasir] Arafat, the European Union is trying to play” a greater role in the Middle East.
“This will be an opportunity to meet with European leaders,” Sommer said.
The organization will also be electing its leaders. Its president, Edgar Bronfman, who had planned to retire, announced recently that he would seek another five-year term. And Israel Singer, the former secretary-general and now governing board chairman, is also said to be interested in running for re-election.
There are vacancies in the other two top spots, secretary general and treasurer. And Herbits said all of the several vice presidential spots need to be filled.Leibler said he no longer has a “desire to participate in the active leadership of the WJC.”
Whether he would have won re-election is questionable. The European Jewish Congress last month called for his resignation.
Also on the agenda will be the continued upsurge of anti-Semitism in Europe and how various countries are responding to it, as well as the formation of a global panel on Jewish-Muslim relations.
“The WJC has been in the forefront of interreligious dialogue,” Sommer said. “We did it with the Catholics” and an outreach to Muslims is under way.
In a statement, Bronfman said the success of the WJC “continues to be its grassroots communal representation and steadfast commitment to dialogue and engagement.
The post 9-11 world demands that we engage non-governmental organizations and religious and cultural groups around the world, which is why we are calling for the creation of a global panel to address Jewish-Muslim relations.”