Isaiah L. Kenen
|Isaiah L. Kenen|
March 7, 1905|
|Occupation||Journalist, lawyer, philanthropist|
Bernice Taube Kenen
Lloyd Bochner (nephew)|
Hart Bochner (great-nephew)
Isaiah Leo "Si" Kenen (1905–1988) was a Canadian-born American journalist, lawyer and philanthropist. He was the founder of the American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs (AZCPA), the forerunner of the modern American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Life and career
Kenen was born on March 7, 1905 in Canada, the son of Rebecca (Freedberg) and Emmanuel Kenen. His father, born in Kiev, was an insurance agent. His family was active in the Zionist movement and his father established the first Bnei Zion club in Toronto and attended the first meetings of the World Zionist Congress. Kenen studied at the University of Toronto and majored in philosophy.
Kenen started working as a journalist at the Toronto Star and moved to Cleveland, Ohio in 1926. He studied law and was admitted to the Ohio Bar Association in 1933. He became active in the Zionist movement and in 1941 became president of the Cleveland Zionist District. In the 1940s, he served as the information director of the Jewish Agency and following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, he served on the Israeli delegation to the United Nations. Regarding this period, he wrote in his book Israel's Defense Line:
Our Jewish community faced a challenge in 1942. Numbed and helpless bystanders as Adolf Hitler waged his demoniacal war against the Jewish people, embittered by our failure to rouse the democracies to deter Hitler, to rescue and open doors to those who might be saved, American Jews assumed their responsibility during World War II. Despite the opposition of the Department of State, they made a commitment to establish an independent Jewish state where Jews could live in freedom and security.
Regarding the establishment of AIPAC he wrote:
The lobby for Israel, known as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) since 1959, came into existence in 1951. It was established at that time because Israel needed American economic assistance to enable her to absorb the huge influx of refugees who poured into the country soon after statehood.
In his biography "Israel's Defense Line", Kenen revealed his transition to an unregistered lobbyist for Israel: "Israelis began looking for a lobbyist to promote the necessary legislation … would I leave the Israeli delegation for six months to lobby on Capitol Hill? There were other questions. Should I continue my registration as an agent of the Israel government? Was it appropriate for an embassy to lobby? Embassies talked to the State Department, and American voters talked to their congressmen."
The Justice Department's Foreign Agents Registration Act section ordered Kenen to continue registering as a foreign agent for Israel if he continued lobbying on its behalf. Kenen never complied with the order, but instead began working on public relations for the American Zionist Council (AZC).
Kenen died in 1988.
- Isaiah L Kenen, Israel's Defense Line: Her Friends and Foes in Washington, Prometheus Books, 1981.
- Isaiah L Kenen, All my causes: An 80-year life span in many lands and for many causes, some we won and some we lost but we never gave up, Near East Research, 1985.