July 14, 2024
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Claims Conference Launches Internal Probe Of Bungled Warning

NEW YORK (Combined services) — As a result of headlines generated by articles in The Jerusalem Post written by Isi Liebler, Isi Liebler, a close supporter of close supporter of Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu,  and an anonymous letter entered into evidence at the fraud trial of former Claims Conference employees, as well as a statement from The American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants, the Claims Conference (CC) is launching an internal probe to see how the original investigation into its $57 million fraud was mishandled. However, critics, including Nathan Sharansky at the Jewish Agency in Israel, and Ronald Lauder of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), are demanding an independent investigation.

The letter contained names and case numbers, was written in 2001, and according to Julius Berman. Chairman of the CC, was one that came from a non-existent Jewish organization, Liebler is accusing Berman of mishandling the original investigation. At the time the letter arrived at the CC, Rabbi Israel Miller was in charge, and Julius Berman was pro-bono counsel.

Shammai Englemayer of The Jewish Standard also received a leaked memo—one that Berman wrote to his board and that explained some of the origins of Liebler’s animosity toward him. Liebler, who was not able to earn the post of Vice President at the World Jewish Congress when Israel Singer was there, approached Berman with a file on Singer and demanded his removal as head of the CC. According to Berman, he refused Leibler’s demand out of hand and tossed the file without reading it.

This meeting with Berman came not long after then-Israeli finance minister Bibi Netanyahu threatened to destroy the CC unless they handed over complete control of the CC to him and the Israeli government. Present in the room were Berman, Singer, Roman Kent, the treasurer of the CC, representatives of Israeli survivors groups, Gideon Taylor, executive director of the CC at the time, Nathan Sharansky as Minister for Diaspora Affairs and others, including head of the Jewish Agency.

Very soon after that, the file that was supposed to destroy the CC by destroying Singer was given to Elliot Spitzer, who was then attorney general for the State of New York. Although Singer left the CC after The American Gathering sent out a statement saying that Singer was not fit to be head of the CC, he remained as head of the WJC for a number of years. The CC was not destroyed.

Reuben Merhav, who is a former Israeli diplomat, and chairman of the investigative committee appointed by Berman said, “The Ombudsman has agreed to provide his findings to the Select Leadership Committee within a short period of time, in order for the Committee to consider the facts as found by the Ombudsman and formulate its recommendations based on those findings in discharge of its mandate,” Merhav wrote. “The comprehensive report of the Select Leadership Committee will be presented to the Board of Directors of the Claims Conference at its annual meeting on July 9 and 10, 2013.”

Menachem Rosensaft, general counsel of the World Jewish Congress, who is also a Vice President at The American Gathering, and who once worked at Kaye Scholer, the law firm where Julius Berman is a partner, told JTA that he wants the committee report shared with the full CC board prior to the meeting.

Rosensaft said. “…we hope and urge that the ombudsman report be made available — not just to the members of Ambassador Merhav’s committee, but to all members of the Claims Conference board. And we further hope and urge that the Merhav committee’s recommendations will be communicated to the members of the Claims Conference board well before the July 9-10 meetings of the Claims Conference board of directors.”

Roman Kent, chairman of The American Gathering, and a member of the CC’s  investigative committee,  told The Forward that he was unaware of the statement issued by The Gathering before its release. At least two members of The American Gathering’s board of directors were also unaware of the statement before it was released. The statement is attributed to Max Leibmann, a Senior Vice President who is in his 90s.

Berman also told his board of directors that there seems to have been two letters written to him by Ronald Lauder, president of the WJC. The one he received—a cordial note asking for an independent investigation, and the other,  a much nastier version released to the newspapers, which he never saw. Berman asked The Forward to show him a copy of the letter that they quoted, but was rebuffed by The Forward’s reporter, who rudely walked out on the interview.

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