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Letter to the JC in response to an article by Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, “The Chaos of Compensation”, about the Claims Conference – December 2010

To the Editor,

It is a shame that an academic of Michael Pinto-Duschinsky’s experience has confused so many facts in one article (“The Chaos of Compensation”).

Over the last 60 years, the Claims Conference (“CC”), has secured tens of billions of dollars in funding and compensation from the German Government whose confidence it continues to enjoy. Like any other organisation, it is not above constructive criticism and can make mistakes. When these are received or highlighted, the CC tries to respond to them quickly, transparently and seriously. Dr. Pinto-Duschinsky’s article contains many inaccuracies and misleading innuendo – for example:
a. That lawyers working on a pro-bono basis (for their clients) were paid millions of dollars by the CC: The lawyers to whom he alludes were not paid by the CC but were awarded costs by the Courts from the other parties.
b. That the CC colluded with the German Government so that it became the heir of last resort in relation to the German Government property restitution law of 1990: Beginning with post war occupying powers, there is legal precedent for property restitution as well as for a successor organisation to act as an heir of last resort. These precedents were followed when constructing the restitution law of 1990. Furthermore, if the CC had not submitted claims for many properties, a significant number of Jewish owners and heirs would have received no compensation (the CC accepted claims until March 2004). Well over 80% of the funds recovered by the CC (after payments to qualifying owners/heirs who failed to claim within the German government deadline of June 93) are applied for the benefit of survivors and victims of Nazi persecution in 45 countries.
c. That the CC “….has diverted many millions of dollars to projects for Holocaust [education, remembrance and] research and various prestige activities.”: The allocations policy and all allocations are set and approved by the entire Board of Directors, many of whom are survivors.
A main criticism of the article is that the CC has become a body with a “….lack of democratic accountability…[and]…too little connection with the Jewish communities from which its directors are drawn.” This is not true. The CC’s members comprise delegates from, inter alia, USA, Israel, Western and Eastern Europe, South America and South Africa, covering all major Jewish communal organisations and in particular Holocaust survivor groups. Policy decisions are made by majority vote at CC Board meetings . The article also stated that the Board of Deputies (“BoD”) is investigating the democratic accountability of the CC. This too is incorrect.
The Duschinsky article is unhelpful in furthering the interests of those who suffered and is also misguided.

Yours faithfully,

Michael Blake (Jewish Care/Holocaust Survivor Centre), Abba Dunner(Agudas Israel), Paul Edlin (Board of Deputies), Ben Helfgott (Board of Deputies), Michael Hilsenrath (Anglo Jewish Association), Clemens Nathan (Anglo Jewish Association), Nigel Ross (World Jewish Relief), David Rothenberg (Association of Jewish Refugees),
UK Claims Conference Directors

Alive, well and surprised

A letter published on the Jerusalem Post website on 10 August 2010:

Sir, – We were surprised to read in Isi Leibler’s column “The arrogance of Claims Conference leaders” (July 22) his description of the Anglo-Jewish Association (AJA) as a “defunct body.”

It would seem that Leibler is unaware that the AJA is a long-established organization in good standing in Britain. It was a founding member of the Claims Conference and its executive members are active in both the Claims Conference and other Holocaust-related charities.

The individuals representing the AJA at the Claims Conference are unpaid and experts in humanitarian- and Holocaust-related issues, and are involved in other Jewish communal and charitable organizations as well. The AJA representatives do not simply turn up each year for the board meeting.

In addition to our work with the Claims Conference, the AJA is one of the largest UK Jewish education grant-making organizations, dispersing the greatest number of education grants to directly support needy and vulnerable Jewish students. Our assistance enables Jewish students in financial need – including many Israelis – to enter further education or study for full-time degrees at British universities.

We are actively and passionately involved in working for the welfare and interest of the survivors, and sit on and chair committees of the Claims Conference.

As well as having the requisite expertise, the AJA and its board representatives are completely independent, as our group receives no financial benefits from the distribution of funds from the Claims Conference.

We therefore have no conflicts of interest.

We are not “arrogant” and are committed both practically and morally to the objects of the Claims Conference and the victims of the Holocaust.

NEIL MIRON President
CLEMENS NATHAN Trustee and vice president
Anglo-Jewish Association

The Evelina de Rothschild High-school in Jerusalem

The Anglo-Jewish Association is pleased to announce that judgement was made in our favour in our dispute with the Jerusalem municipality concerning the fate of the Evelina de Rothschild high-school in Jerusalem.

The arbitrator, retired judge Jacob Bezalel, in his decision of 17 June, held that the AJA (represented by Advocate Louis Garb of Jerusalem) was correct in its contention that the municipality had breached its agreements with the Association by allowing the Hartman Institute to establish a school for girls on the premises.

The arbitrator held that the presence of the Hartman School for Girls on the Evelina campus must cease and that the school should only bear the name of Evelina de Rothschild.

Neil Miron, President of the AJA, stated that the Association wished to cooperate with the municipality in order to attempt to restore the Evelina School, bearer of a proud history of 144 years, to its former glory.

Rene Cassin Remembered

7 December 2008

The BBC Radio 4 programme Sunday, Religious News & Current Affairs with Roger Bolton, marked the 60th anniversary of the publication of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The programme featured a report by Trevor Barnes and discussion with Lord Richard Harris, former Anglican Bishop of Oxford, and Massoud Shadjareh, Chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission.

The report referred to the role of Rene Cassin, the representative of the Consultative Council of Jewish Organisations at the United Nations, in drafting the Declaration and features comments from Clemens Nathan, Cassin’s successor and also an Executive Member of the Anglo-Jewish Association.

To download and listen to the report and discussion click here.

(The download is an mp3 file of 9Mb – in some browsers you may need to right click the link and select “Save Target As” before opening it.)

AJA Statement on University and College Union

31 March 2008

The Anglo-Jewish Association condemns the University and College Union’s (UCU) decision to consider reactivating a boycott of Israeli academics at the forthcoming conference in Manchester in May.

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AJA Statement on University and College Union

1 October 2007

The Anglo-Jewish Association welcomes the University and College Union’s (UCU) decision not to pursue a boycott of Israeli academics.

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