Claims Conference Board Charts Future Course

After extensive discussion among more than 60 representatives from its member organizations, the Board of Directors of the Claims Conference voted on the long-term future direction of the organization that has, for over the past six decades, advocated on behalf of Jewish Holocaust victims and their heirs.

The Board unequivocally and unanimously decided that, for as long as there are Jewish Nazi victims, the organization’s focus remains on dealing with the immediate needs of Jewish Nazi victims worldwide, including providing homecare, food, medicine and other services for vulnerable survivors. The Board noted that for 2015, the Claims Conference will allocate an estimated $390 million from all sources, including a 45 percent increase in funding for homecare obtained from the German government, whose funding will increase annually through 2017.

The Board also noted that direct compensation payments from the Claims Conference, pensions and one-time payments, increased 16 percent from $338 million in 2012 to $402 million in 2013.

Additional homecare issues and funding beyond 2017, as well as other unmet, critical needs of survivors – such as dental services – will continue to be pressed in negotiations with the German government.

The Claims Conference Board reviewed detailed reports, and heard and discussed presentations from the Chairs, of three of the panels established by the Special Planning Commission (SPC), formed by the Board to deal with various aspects of the organization’s future. The Board of Directors determined that, based on the recommendations of the Strategic Vision Panel, one of the panels of the SPC, led by Dr. Jeffrey Solomon, President of the Andrea & Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, and Avraham Duvdevani, Chairman of the World Zionist Organization, the Claims Conference will develop a strategic plan – to be brought to the Board for review – to leverage its already extensive expertise, gathered over the past 20 years in the area of Shoah education, research and documentation, in addressing the opportunities and gaps in Holocaust education and commemoration worldwide.

Over the course of the past year, the Board Structure and Governance Panel, another SPC panel, led by Michael Miller, Executive Vice President and CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, and Justice Ayala Procaccia, former justice of the Supreme Court of Israel, reviewed and made recommendations with respect to strengthening the structure of the organization’s board and, thus, the governance of the Claims Conference. These changes in governance were also crafted to comply with newly enacted laws governing entities such as the Claims Conference.

Further, a third SPC panel, the Demography Panel, led by Sally Berkovic, Chief Executive of the Rothschild Foundation (Hanadiv) Europe, and Jacob Solomon, President and CEO of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, recommended that the Claims Conference gather necessary data on Jewish Nazi victims (e.g., number, gender, life expectancy, country of residence) in order to assist in planning for the social welfare needs of survivors. A unit for demographic research and policy was approved by the Board to continue this critical analysis.

“The Claims Conference is at a critical point in its history,” remarked Julius Berman, who was previously the organization’s Chairman and was elected by the Board to the newly created position of President. “Over the past 60-plus years, the Claims Conference has evolved to address the most pressing issues of the day for Jewish Nazi victims. Presently, the Claims Conference continues to provide for the health and well-being of needy survivors – its core mission – through distributing allocations for homecare and negotiating with the German government to provide additional Nazi victims with direct compensation.”

Other Key Items Approved by the Claims Conference Board

A new Leadership Council will replace the current 22-member Executive Committee in order to meet the future governance needs of the organization, promote accountability and support efficient decision-making.

Three consecutive two-year term limits for the 14 members of the Leadership Council has been implemented to foster a balance between institutional memory and fresh ideas, skills and perspective.

The following are the officers of the newly adopted Leadership Council:
President: Julius Berman
Vice Presidents: Amb. Reuven Merhav and Natan Sharansky
Treasurer: Roman Kent
Secretary: Alan Pines
At-large Members: Amb. Colette Avital, Rabbi Andrew Baker, Chaim Chesler, Robert Goot, Ben Helfgott, and Stefanie Seltzer.