NEW YORK – United States President Donald Trump delivered a video message to the World Jewish Congress’ Plenary Assembly in New York on Sunday, on Yom HoShoah, Israel’s day of remembrance for the victims and heroes of the Holocaust. Trump extended a warm welcome to WJC President Ronald S. Lauder and to the delegates, saying: “Today, we are reminded of this organization’s long and heroic history fighting for the Jewish people. Your brave leaders warned the world of the planned atrocities that sought to extinguish an entire people.
“On Yom HaShoah, we look back at the darkest chapter of human history. We mourn, we remember, we pray, and we pledge: Never again. I say it, never again. The mind cannot fathom the pain, the horror, and the loss. Six million Jews, two-thirds of the Jews in Europe, murdered by the Nazi genocide. They were murdered by an evil that words cannot describe, and that the human heart cannot bear.”
Trump pledged to stand firm against hatred of Jews and terrorism: “We must stamp out prejudice and anti-Semitism everywhere it is found. We must defeat terrorism, and we must not ignore the threats of a regime that talks openly of Israel’s destruction. We cannot let that ever even be thought of.”
More than 600 Jewish community representatives from some 90 countries around the world were in New York this week for the WJC’s Plenary Assembly, the supreme decision-making body of the World Jewish Congress, which was founded in Geneva in 1936.
UN Secretary General Guterres: Israel needs to be treated like any other member state
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressed the opening event earlier Sunday night, pledging to delegates: “As secretary general of the United Nations, I will be on the front lines in the fight against anti-Semitism.” He stressed that “Israel needs to be treated like any other UN member state” and that it had an “undeniable right to exist and to live in peace and security with its neighbors.”
“The modern form of anti-Semitism is the denial of the existence of the State of Israel,” the secretary general added.
Guterres recalled what he called the “systematic policy of discrimination of Jews in the Middle Ages” and the expulsion of Jews from his native Portugal, which he called a “tremendous crime and the most stupid mistake ever made in Portugal.” He also recalled his strong emotions when he visited a nearly empty synagogue of the Portuguese Jewish community in Amsterdam, because it had been decimated in the Holocaust.
Guterres said “anti-Semitism never died despite the shock of the Holocaust,” and added that it was “alive and well today”, citing hate speech on the internet, physical aggression against Jews, and the destruction of Jewish monuments and cemeteries.
This was the first time a UN secretary general has addressed an international gathering of Jewish leaders.
Plenary Assembly to continue through Tuesday
Over the course of the three-day assembly, delegates will hear reports about the situation of Jewish communities world-wide and discuss major issues, including anti-Semitism and the rise of extremist political movements. A WJC-commissioned report will be presented that details the proliferation anti-Semitism on the internet, and policies to combat such phenomena will be discussed. The delegates will also elect the WJC leadership for the coming four-year term. Current WJC President Ronald S. Lauder is standing for re-election.
Other speakers at the event include UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, Israeli Minister of Intelligence and of Transportation Yisrael Katz, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, US Representatives Eliot Engel, Nita Lowey and Lee Zeldin, European Commission Coordinator on Combating Anti-Semitism Katharina von Schnurbein, as well as the Jewish Nobel Prize laureates Roald Hoffmann (Chemistry), Daniel Kahneman(Economics) and Eric Kandel (Medicine).