Serge Cwajgenbaum z”l
The European Jewish Congress mourns the passing on Sunday of our beloved founder and Secretary-General Serge Cwajgenbaum, z”l.
For decades since his initial involvement as one of the leaders of the French Jewish student Union in the 1970s, Serge came to encapsulate European Jewry, its communities and organisations, which he served with such distinction, commitment, knowledge and passion.
It was Serge’s vision when he headed the French Section of the World Jewish Congress in Paris to set up in 1986 an autonomous, representative Jewish umbrella organisation across Europe, linking the free Jewish communities of the West with those still behind the Iron Curtain. In this, Serge pre-staged the united Jewish community of Europe gathered under the umbrella of the EJC which we have today.
Serge knew all the communities, their institutions, lay leaders and rabbis, their teachers and students. He knew how he could utilise to best advantage the resources available so that the strong helped the weak and that a united Jewish voice – so often expressed personally and eloquently by Serge himself – could find its representation in the highest echelons of government and in the pan-European institutions of the European Union and the Council of Europe.
A proud French Jew, steeped in the traditions and culture of our people, a deeply committed European and a passionate supporter and defender of the Jewish State, Serge worked tirelessly on behalf of European Jewry while firmly rooted in making our European society a better place.
It was through the direct initiative of Serge that the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia was set up, the first move towards setting up the Fundamental Rights Agency. Serge’s work in promoting tolerance and fighting racism and antisemitism as well as his leading role in the EJC saw him receive France’s highest award as an Officer of the Legion of Honour.
When Europe sought out experts on how to tackle racism and xenophobia, to encourage and nurture interfaith dialogue and to enhance the political and economic relationship between Europe and Israel, it searched out Serge Cwajgenbaum.
He was there when the Iron Curtain came down to shepherd the renaissance of the Jewish communities of Central and Eastern Europe, there to enhance the memory and educate new generations about the Shoah, there to implacably stand up for Israel and there to fight the pernicious disease of antisemitism.
To Serge’s dear wife, children and grandchildren, we send our deep respect and condolences and we deeply share your grief and loss. May the Lord comfort you among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
The European Jewish Congress and all our communities owe Serge so much. We will cherish his memory.
Yehi Zichro Baruch.