American Jewish Committee
|American Jewish Committee|
|Motto||Global Jewish Advocacy|
|Type||Human Rights, Pro-Israel, Human Relations|
|Headquarters||New York, NY|
|Executive Director||David Harris|
|Key people||Robert Elman—President|
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) is a Jewish advocacy group. It was established in 1906 with the purpose of safeguarding the welfare and security of Jews worldwide. It is one of the oldest Jewish advocacy organizations in the United States.
AJC is an international advocacy organization whose key areas of focus are: building bridges of understanding, advancing the security of Americans and the democratic world, combating anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry; supporting Israel's quest for peace and security; advocating for energy independence; strengthening Jewish life.
The organization has regional offices in 26 American cities, seven overseas offices, and 31 international partnerships with Jewish communal institutions around the world.
AJC's programs and departments include the Asia and Pacific Rim Institute, the Belfer Center for American Pluralism, the Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, Contemporary Jewish Life, Government and International Affairs, Interreligious and Intergroup Relations, the Latino and Latin American Institute, Middle East and International Terrorism, National and Legislative Affairs, Project Interchange, Russian Affairs and UN Watch.
The organization's mission statement is "To enhance the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel, and to advance jewish rights and jewish values in the United States and around the world."
AJC was established in 1906 by a small group of American Jews concerned about pogroms aimed at the Jewish population of Russia. Its official purpose was to prevent infringement of the civil and religious rights of Jews and to alleviate the consequences of persecution."
The organization was dominated for years by banker Jacob H. Schiff, lawyer Louis Marshall, Judge Mayer Sulzberger, and other well-to-do and politically connected Jews. Most were from New York City while others lived in Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, and San Francisco. Later leaders were Judge Joseph M. Proskauer, industrialist Jacob Blaustein, and lawyer Irving M. Engel. In addition to the central office in New York City, local offices were established around the country. AJC took the position that prejudice was indivisible, and that the rights of Jews in the United States could be best protected by arguing in favor of the equality of all Americans. AJC supported social science research into the causes of and cures for prejudice, and forged alliances with other ethnic, racial and religious groups. AJC research was cited in the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education that outlawed segregated schools.
The AJC leaders in the early days were mindful of their responsibility toward the large numbers of poor Yiddish-speaking East European Jews pouring into New York and other cities. Nevertheless they feared that these not-yet-Americanized masses threatened to create the wrong image in the public mind because they brought with them Old World customs and alien ideologies, and held public rallies and protest meetings instead of working patiently through the existing Jewish establishment. The AJC did not want the American public to envision American Jewry as a foreign culture transplanted artificially to American shores. The profound fear, repeated over and over, was the risk of evoking an anti-Semitic reaction that would endanger the status of all American Jews. The AJC seeing itself as the natural "steward" of the community, took on the mission of educating the new arrivals in proper Americanism.
Louis B. Marshall (1856–1929) was a key founder and long-time president (1912–29). He made the organization the leading voice in the 1920s against immigration restriction, but could not stop passage of legislation setting quotas on the inflow of immigrants. He did succeed in stopping Henry Ford from publishing anti-Semitic literature and distributing it through his car dealerships, in direct violaton of the 1st Amendment, and forced Ford to apologize publicly to Marshall. In 1914 AJC helped create the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, established to aid Jewish victims of World War I, and would later play an instrumental role in aiding Jewish victims of World War II and the Holocaust. After World War I, Marshall had some success in inserting into the peace treaties provisions guaranteeing the rights of minorities.
In the 1920s the AJC was concerned with dangers in Poland and Romania, where violent outbreaks of anti-Semitism and the restriction of civil rights made the position of Jews precarious. In the 1930s it advocated finding places of refuge for Jewish refugees from Hitler, but had little success. Once World War II broke out it stressed that this was a war for democracy and discouraged emphasis on Hitler's anti-Jewish policies lest a backlash identify it as a "Jewish war" and increase anti-Semitism in the U.S. When the war ended in 1945 it urged a human rights program upon the United Nations and proved vital in enlisting the support that made possible the human rights provisions in the UN Charter.
Through direct dialogue with the Catholic Church, AJC played a leading role in paving the way for a significant upturn in Jewish-Christian relations in the years leading up to the Roman Catholic Church's 1965 document Nostra Aetate, and in the ensuing years.
Before the Six-Day War in 1967, the AJC was officially "non-Zionist". It had long been ambivalent about Zionism as possibly opening up Jews to the charge of dual loyalty, after the U.S. backed the partition of Palestine in 1947–48. It was the first American Jewish organization to open a permanent office in Israel. In 1950 AJC President Jacob Blaustein reached an agreement with Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion stating that the political allegiance of American Jews was solely to their country of residence. As 1967 began, it still was the major Jewish body that was most self-consciously American, most reluctant to acknowledge links to other Jewish communities beyond those of religion and philanthropy, and least willing to subordinate institutional autonomy to the cause of Jewish communal solidarity. That it transformed itself almost overnight into a passionate defender of the Jewish state and, in so doing, shed old inhibitions to espouse Jewish peoplehood was itself a measure of the impact this 1967 crisis had on American Jewry as a whole.
In the 1970s, AJC spearheaded the fight to pass anti-boycott legislation to counter the Arab League boycott of Israel. In particular, Japan's defection from the boycott was attributed to AJC persuasion. In 1975, AJC became the first Jewish organization to campaign against the UN's "Zionism is Racism" resolution, a campaign that unfortunately succeeded in 1991. AJC played a leading role in breaking Israel's diplomatic isolation at the UN by helping it gain acceptance in WEOG (West Europe and Others), one of the UN's five regional groups.
From 1945 to 2007, the organization published Commentary magazine, focused on political and cultural commentary and analysis of politics and society in the U.S. and the Middle East. Originally liberal, the magazine moved right, and since the 1980s has been the voice of Neoconservatives. It is now independent of AJC. Until 1990, AJC published the decidedly liberal Present Tense as its official house organ. From 1906 through 2008 AJC published the American Jewish Yearbook, a highly detailed annual account of the Jewish life in the U.S., Israel and the world. Each year AJC releases a "Survey of American Jewish Opinion" that monitors the attitudes of American Jews on issues of concern.
AJC was active in the campaign to gain emigration rights for Jews living in the Soviet Union and was one of the founders of the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry. In December 1987, AJC's Washington representative, David Harris, who would later become the organization's executive director, organized the Freedom Sunday Rally on behalf of Soviet Jewry. 250,000 people attended the D.C. rally, which demanded that the Soviet government allow Jewish emigration from the USSR.
In 2003, AJC opened in Brussels the Transatlantic Institute, aimed at fostering improved relations between Europe, Israel, and the U.S. That same year, it opened a Russian Affairs Division to identify and train new leaders in American Jewish public advocacy.
In 2005, as part of its continuing efforts to respond to humanitarian crises, the organization contributed $2.5 million to relief funds and reconstruction projects for the victims of the South Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina.
Under Executive Director David Harris, who was named to the post in 1990, AJC became increasingly involved in the international arena. Project Interchange, a previously independent body that ran seminars in Israel for influential Americans, became part of AJC.
In 1998, AJC became the first American Jewish organization to establish a full-time presence in Germany, opening an office in Berlin.
In 2003, AJC established the Transatlantic Institute in Brussels, aimed at fostering improved relations between Europe, Israel, and the U.S. Other offices were opened in Paris, Rome, Mumbai, and São Paulo. Regular meetings with foreign diplomats both in the U.S. and in their home countries were supplemented each September by what came to be called a "diplomatic marathon," a series of meetings with high-level representatives of foreign countries who were in New York for the UN General Assembly session. The number of participating nations eventually grew to over 70. The AJC annual meeting was moved from New York to Washington, D.C., so that more government officials and foreign diplomats might participate, and in 2010 the meeting was renamed the "global forum." Speakers at the event have included U.S. legislators, Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; Secretaries of State Warren Christopher, Madeleine Albright, and Hillary Clinton; Israeli Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, and Benjamin Netanyahu; and presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers of other countries.
AJC became increasingly involved in the advocacy of energy independence for the U.S. on the grounds that this would reduce dependence on foreign, especially Arab, oil; boost the American economy; and improve the environment. AJC urged Congress and several Administrations to take action toward this goal, and called upon the private sector to be more energy-conscious. It adopted "Green" policies for itself institutionally, and in 2011 earned LEED certification, denoting that its New York headquarters was energy efficient and environmentally sound.
As part of a new strategic plan adopted in 2009, AJC envisioned itself as the "Global Center for Jewish and Israel Advocacy" and the "Central 'Jewish Address' for Intergroup Relations and Human Rights." Its new tagline was "Global Jewish Advocacy."
An essay, "Progressive Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism" by Alvin H. Rosenfeld, published on the AJC web site criticized Jewish critics of Israel by name, particularly the editors and contributors to "Wrestling With Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict" (Grove Press), a 2003 collection of essays edited by Tony Kushner and Alisa Solomon. The essay accused these writers of participating in an "onslaught against Zionism and the Jewish State," which he considered a veiled form of supporting a rise in anti-Semitism.
In an editorial, the liberal Jewish newspaper The Forward called the essay "a shocking tissue of slander" whose intent was to "turn Jews against liberalism and silence critics." Richard Cohen remarked that the essay "has given license to the most intolerant and narrow-minded of Israel's defenders so that, as the AJC concedes in my case, any veering from orthodoxy is met with censure...the most powerful of all post-Holocaust condemnations—anti-Semite—is diluted beyond recognition."
In a Jerusalem Post op-ed, AJC Executive Director David Harris explained why the organization published Rosenfeld's essay:
- Rosenfeld has courageously taken on the threat that arises when a Jewish imprimatur is given to the campaign to challenge Israel's very legitimacy. He has the right to express his views no less than those whom he challenges. It is important to stress that he has not suggested that those about whom he writes are anti-Semitic, though that straw-man argument is being invoked by some as a diversionary tactic. As befits a highly regarded and prolific scholar, he has written a well-documented and thought-provoking essay that deserves to be considered on its merits.
In October 2011, AJC issued a joint statement with the Anti-Defamation League urging American Jews to support a Joint Unity Pledge stating: "America's friendship with Israel is an emotional, moral and strategic bond that has always transcended politics." It urged that "now is the time to reaffirm that Israel's well-being is best served, as it always has been, by American voices raised together in unshakeable support for our friend and ally."
The statement aroused a storm of protest from Jewish opponents of President Obama's re-election, who perceived it as a call to avoid criticizing the president's policies toward Israel. In the pages of The Wall Street Journal, former Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith asked: "Since when have American supporters of Israel believed that a candidate's attitudes toward Israel should be kept out of electoral politics? Since never." AJC Executive Director David Harris responded that the statement was intended to preserve the tradition of bipartisan support for Israel and prevent it from becoming "a dangerous political football." While Harris recognized the right of anyone in the Jewish community to take a partisan position, he stressed the need for "strong advocacy in both parties" at a time of looming international difficulties for the Jewish state.
- Steven Bayme, AJC National Director of Jewish Communal Affairs
- Felice D. Gaer, Director of AJC's Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights
- David Harris, Executive Director
- Louis B. Marshall, one of the AJC's German-Jewish founders in 1906, President from 1912 until his death in 1929
- Norman Podhoretz (Retired Editor-in-Chief (1960–1995) of Commentary)
- Marc H. Tanenbaum, Director of Interreligious and later International Affairs.
- Harold Tanner, Past President
- American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)
- American Jewish Congress
- World Jewish Congress
- H. H. Ben-Sasson (1976). A History of the Jewish People (paper). Harvard University Press.
- "Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism:A Report Provided to the United States Congress". State.gov. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
- The New York Times, Nov. 11, 1907, pg 16
- "Declaration of Human Rights Issued by American Jewish Committee; Approved by Roosevelt". Archive.jta.org. 1944-12-15. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
- "In the Supreme Court of the United States: Barbara Grutter v Lee Bollinger". Supreme.lp.findlaw.com. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
- "LESS ANTI-SEMITISM FOUND IN AMERICA; President Marshall Tells American Jewish Committee ThatAgitation is Waning.15,393,815 JEWS IN WORLDCommunist Policy Has Improved Their Condition in Russia-- Election of Officers". The New York Times. 13 November 1922.
- Helm, Leslie (5 December 1992). "Japan Asks Arab States to End Boycott of Israel : Trade: Move could boost Tokyo's role as peacemaker in Mideast.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 20 January 2012.
- "European Jewish Press: The 2nd Conference of Jewish Media in Europe, June 20, 2011". Library.constantcontact.com. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
- Inside Story. "A Russian warning to Israel over Iran - Inside Story". Al Jazeera English. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
- "Israel’s European Lobby". Islamdaily.org. 2009-10-29. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
- Дом - AJC - Russian
- Humanitarian Campaigns
- "Hispanic leaders boost Latino-Jewish ties - Israel Jewish Scene, Ynetnews". Ynetnews.com. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
- December 9, 2009 (2009-12-09). "German army, American Jewish Committee expand ties | JTA - Jewish & Israel News". JTA. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
- "U.S. Foreign Policy and the Middle East - C-SPAN Video Library". C-spanvideo.org. 2011-04-28. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
- "Congress of the United States". Chrissmith.house.gov. Retrieved 2012-10-19. Text " American Jewish Committee " ignored (help)
- "Secretary Clinton to Deliver Remarks to the American Jewish Committee on April 29". State.gov. 2010-04-28. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
- "American Jewish Committee - Leadership and Board Services Intern | Hillel". Hillel.columbia.edu. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
- "Global Jewish Advocacy - C-SPAN Video Library". C-spanvideo.org. 2010-04-30. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
- "Progressive Jewish thought". Ajc.org. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
- Cohen, Patricia (31 January 2007). "Essay Linking Liberal Jews and Anti-Semitism Sparks a Furor". The New York Times.
- Cohen, Richard (6 February 2007). "Cheapening a Fight Against Hatred". The Washington Post.
- Michael, Rabbi (2007-02-02). "There Is No New Anti-Semitism". BaltimoreChronicle.com. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
- Yglesias, Matthew (8 February 2007). "Are we all anti-semites now?". The Guardian (London).
- Kutler, Stanley I. (7 February 2007). "All critics of Israel aren't anti-Semites". The Boston Globe.
- [dead link]
- "Proposed Unity Pledge Spurs Debate –". Forward.com. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
- by Robert WienerNJJN Staff Writer. "In NJ talk, AJC director defends ‘unity’ pledge | NJJN". Njjewishnews.com. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
- Cohen, Naomi Wiener. "The Transatlantic Connection: The American Jewish Committee and the Joint Foreign Committee in Defense of German Jews, 1933-1937," American Jewish History V. 90, #4, December 2002, pp. 353–384 in Project MUSE
- Cohen, Naomi Wiener. Not Free to Desist: The American Jewish Committee, 1906-1966 (1972), a standard history
- Grossman, Lawrence. "Transformation Through Crisis: The American Jewish Committee and the Six-Day War," American Jewish History, Volume 86, Number 1, March 1998, pp. 27–54 in Project MUSE
- Handlin, Oscar. "The American Jewish Committee: A Half-Century View," Commentary (Jan. 1957) pp 1–10 online
- Sanua, Marianne R. Let Us Prove Strong: The American Jewish Committee, 1945-2006 (2007). 495 pp. the standard scholarly history
- Solomon, Abba A. The Speech, and Its Context: Jacob Blaustein's Speech "The Meaning of Palestine Partition to American Jews" Given to the Baltimore Chapter, American Jewish Committee, February 15, 1948 (2011), 212 pp. Includes full text of speech, and some history of AJC perspective on Palestine and Israel.
- Svonkin, Stuart. Jews against Prejudice: American Jews and the Fight for Civil Liberties (1997), covers AJC and other groups including the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Congress
- Official website
- President attends Centennial dinner
- American Jewish Committee Archives
- American Jewish Committee publications (full text) on the Berman Jewish Policy Archive @ NYU Wagner
- AJC Atlanta, GA Chapter
- Hate Crime Laws vs. Fundamental Freedoms at Atlantic Community think tank