Ron Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), called upon Hillary Clinton to present the organization’s second annual Theodor Herzl Award to Marion and Elie Wiesel last month at the Waldorf-Astoria.
“We have come to know Hillary Clinton as our former First Lady, former United States Senator, and former Secretary of State and our future…”
Lauder didn’t have to finish.
Clinton recalled a lecture Wiesel gave at the White House on the eve of a new millennium. “He emphasized that indifference is more dangerous than anger and hatred,” she said.
“Elie’s own story of survival has steeled the world’s resolve that an atrocity like the Holocaust can never be repeated.”
Lauder wasn’t so sure about that.
He said that as Nazi Germany grew stronger, intelligent people hoped everything they saw and heard wasn’t really happening. They kept deluding themselves.
“A realist is someone who believes what he sees. Those realists who gathered in Geneva in 1936 to create the World Jewish Congress did not believe the incredibly naïve leaders like Neville Chamberlain.
For almost 80 years, Lauder said, the World Jewish Congress has been the voice of the Jewish people, with access to every leader throughout the world, protecting smaller Jewish communities that are isolated, and fighting anti-Semitism whether it came from the left or the right.
Yet, he conceded, the world’s attitude toward Israel, and Jews in general, has not improved. It has grown more hostile. “Anti-Zionism has become the fashionable way for anti-Semites to express their hatred of Jews.”
Lauder said that Iran, which has threatened to wipe Israel of the face of the map, is racing to complete a nuclear weapon. And the world is silent.
It’s a strange replay of history, he noted, when the West gave up Czechoslovakia to Hitler in Munich in 1938. We see this happening again at the 2013 meeting in Geneva to prevent Iran from reaching nuclear capability. The chief U.S. negotiator, Wendy Sherman, was the point-person who negotiated with Kim il-Jung to keep North Korea nuclear free.
“We all know how well that turned out,” Lauder said.
The audience rose to applaud as Marion and Elie Wiesel accepted the Theodor Herzl Award from Hillary Clinton. The 300 guests included Ricky and Ralph Lauren, the ADL’s Abraham Foxman, Anne and Kenneth Bialkin, Rabbi Arthur Schneier of Park East Synagogue, White House Jewish liaison Matt Nosanchuk, Tom Tisch, Ingeborg and Ira Rennert, Menahem Rosensaft, Israel’s Minister of Energy and Water Sylvan Shalom, and violinist Itzhak Perlman who performed from “Schindler’s List.”
Mrs. Wiesel thanked Mrs. Clinton for the award. Then her husband stepped up. “For once I have the last word,” he cracked.
On a somber note Wiesel revealed that Nahum Goldmann, who headed the WJC from 1948 to 1977, admitted that the Jews of America kept silent during the Holocaust.
“You knew and you kept quiet!” an astonished Wiesel cried. What hurt him more than anything was that the White House knew everything that was happening in the war. “But when it came to saving Jews…”
Wiesel didn’t have to finish.