WHO WE ARE - Meet the Executive
Interview of our newly-elected President Ralph Hofmann
Friday, 22 July 2011When and where were you born, Ralph?
I was born in Frankfurt - Main on 6th December 1952
Tell us something of the history of your family before 1939.
My father's family is from Leipzig and has been involved with the fur trade for several generations. During World War I my grandfather, like so many others, served as an officer in the German army. My mother's family originates in East Prussia, in a small town not far from Elbing and Gdansk. Her parents owned a department store. My mother's parents were killed in Babiyar and her sister Gerda was on the Kladova transport and was shot near Belgrade in a place called Sarbac.
Do you have any children?
We have a 29 year old son Yves who works in event management.
How do you balance your business life with the Presidency of B'nai B'rith Europe?
A very good question. At the moment, I spend about 50% of the working day on BBE affairs.
What about your hobbies and interests outside B'nai B'rith?
There's really not a lot of time left for other things, but I try to play tennis regularly and love watching football.
What's life like today for a Jew living in Germany?
I guess it's no different from living anywhere else. In my experience, there are those who don't like us, and they are never going to change their minds, but I also have many good, close German friends whom I have known since school days. They all know that I am Jewish and that has never been a problem.
When did you join B'nai B'rith?
Simone and I joined the Frankfurt lodge in 1993 during my late father's second term as President.
What have been your main areas of interest so far?
We worked hard at integrating the Jews from Russia into the Frankfurt Jewish community and we are still involved in helping to organise social and cultural events. Additionally, we have always focussed on youth and one of the results of this was the first Young Jewish Adult Forum organised five years ago by the Frankfurt lodge together with B'nai B'rith Europe. The 5th YJAF will take place in Berlin from 11 – 13 November this year. The B'nai B'rith Europe website is happy to take new registrations for Berlin.
Now that you are B'nai B'rith Europe President, what are your main aspirations for the organisation?
Teamwork is vital. I rely on the help and support of the lodges throughout Europe and, of course, of my colleagues on the Executive Committee. In view of the many countries and many languages in which we operate, as well as the different mentalities of our members, we shall need time. However, the new Executive is already working hard to ensure a fruitful future for B'nai B'rith in Europe.
What do you see as the basic problems of the organisation and how do you plan to address these?
We are all volunteers. To get results we need to organise ourselves professionally and this costs money. I invite all those sisters and brothers who want to see us progress to support us financially, especially for projects such as the Young Jewish Adult Forum, the Jewish Heritage Day, our great philanthropic work in Ukraine and Roumania, the MAKOR project and many others.
Who has most influenced you in your business life and in your BB activities?
In both cases - my late father.
What do you consider to be the most significant event to have happened to you in your life?
The birth of our son Yves.
What do you consider to be your greatest strength and your greatest weakness?
I believe that I am able to motivate people. My greatest weakness is my wish to arrive at consensus and to avoid confrontation.