Over 30 years ago, European Jewish communities decided to merge their activities and unite their efforts. The European Jewish Congress (EJC) was officially established as a new and independent structure in 1986. Previously, European Jewish issues were dealt with by the European branch of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), first based in London, before moving to Paris in 1980.
The EJC is today the regional affiliate of the WJC.As the sole political organizational representative of European Jewry, the EJC protects the interests of its affiliated communities, working daily with European Union institutions and officials, the Council of Europe (where the EJC has participatory status) and national governments and parliaments.
The EJC was created to give a unified voice to Jewish communities around Europe, representing their common interests and concerns, but at the same time allowing smaller Jewish communities a wider platform to express their specific needs. It acts as an intimate forum between communities, where ideas can be exchanged easily, and internal elections and referenda decide future leadership, projects and goals.Since its establishment, the EJC has developed and expanded in order to meet the constantly changing and enlarging European Union (EU).
With the collapse of the communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe, and finally the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, the EJC enlarged the scope of its representation and activities to encompass those Jewish communities in the former Soviet Union. Today, the wide political and geographical representation of the EJC matches that of the Council of Europe.
Based in Brussels, the EJC federates and co-ordinates 42 national Jewish communities in Europe, encompassing approximately 2.5 million Jews.The EJC addresses the many challenges contemporarily faced by European Jewry.
The EJC’s agenda has evolved since its establishment to address the enormous diversity of Jewish communities within Europe. However, in spite of their cultural differences and dissimilar historic backgrounds, EJC’s members all share common needs and interests, which in turn become the EJC’s primary objectives:
- To foster the unity of the Jewish people, to strive for the fulfillment of its aspirations and ensure the continuity and development of its religious, spiritual, cultural and social heritage;
- To combat the resurgence of anti-Semitism and xenophobia through education, justice and security, in cooperation with national governments and European institutions;
- To monitor legislative initiatives that can threaten Jewish life and traditions on European and national levels and to take immediate actions to protect Jewish interests;
- To promote a balanced European policy towards Israel, to defend its image, which is continuously vilified by dangerous propaganda, and to assist in the construction of a healthy dialogue between Europeans and Israelis;
- To enhance inter-religious dialogue and understanding;
- To ensure the memory and education of the Shoah and to fight against those who distort or deny its memory by organizing commemoration events, visits to the concentration and death camps, and promoting educational programmes;
- To contribute to a democratic European society based on peace, understanding and tolerance;
- To protect Jewish lives and to defend the individual rights of Jews to practice Judaism and its traditions freely and to monitor and combat all hostile legislative initiatives in this respect;
- To assist in the revitalization of the once rich Jewish life in parts of Europe and to help small communities to develop and flourish;
- To create opportunities for community leaders to establish ties with one another and share their experiences and ideas;
The General Assembly is the supreme body of the EJC. It defines the general policy, receives reports from the President and the Secretary General, sets of multi annual goals and plans of action, receives and approves annual accounts and budget. It holds meetings every two years.The delegates from member communities are entitled to participate and to vote on EJC General Assembly. The General Assembly elects the President, the Chairman of the Council and the members of the Executive for a term of four years.
The Executive Committee is the ongoing decision making body of EJC and is composed of a maximum of sixteen members. The Executive is formed by the President, the Chairman of the Council, the representatives of the five largest communities, and a maximum of nine representatives of other communities to be elected by the General Assembly. The Executive appoints among its members 4 to 7 Vice-Presidents and a Treasurer. The Executive meets a minimum of 4 times each year.
The Council defines the general policy of EJC, receives reports from the President and the Secretary General, sets of multi annual goals and plans of action, receives and approves annual accounts and budget between the General Assembly meetings. Each member community shall be represented in the Council by one of its delegates. The Council meets once a year.
The Secretary General is responsible for the daily functioning and management of the organization; he initiates, implements, coordinates and supervises projects and actions as instructed by the President and/or as adopted by the General Assembly, the Council and the Executive. The Secretary General attends all the meetings of all the bodies and committees of the EJC in an advisory capacity.
- 1986-1988: Théo Klein
- 1988-1991: Lionel Kopelowicz
- 1991-1995: Jean Kahn
- 1996-1998: Eldred Tabachnik
- 1998-1999: Ignatz Bubis
- 2000-2001: Henri Hajdenberg
- 2001-2003: Michel Friedman
- 2003-2005: Cobi Benatoff
- 2005 -2007: Pierre Besnainou
- 2007 – present: Moshe Kantor