American Jewish Committee

All Sources -
Updated Media sources (1) About content Print Topic Share Topic
views updated


Defense organization led by U.S. Jews and established in 1906.

The American Jewish Committee was established in 1906, after a series of pogroms in Eastern Europe convinced prominent U.S. Jews of the need to create a defense organization dedicated "to prevent the infraction of civil and religious rights of Jews in any part of the world." The present-day American Jewish Committee continues its focus on the welfare and security of world Jewry. In addition, it seeks to enhance the quality of Jewish life in the United States. The committee attempts to achieve these dual objectives by opposing antisemitism and attacks against Israel and by helping to strengthen Jewish identity through, among other things, deepening the ties between American Jews and Israel.

Although the American Jewish Committee was established by a small coterie of self-appointed and co-opted individuals rather than by elected leaders, the committee viewed itself as representing the needs and interests of the wider Jewish community. During World War I, a newly emerging U.S. Jewish leadership charged the committee with elitism and demanded a democratically elected American Jewish Congress to represent U.S. Jewry at a postwar peace conference. The American Jewish Committee first opposed and then negotiated an agreement whereby three-fourths of the delegates to such a congress would be elected and one-fourth appointed by the American Jewish Committee. The committee, perhaps in order to maintain its leadership position within the Jewish community, forged a relationship first with the Zionist movement and then later with the state of Israel.

In 1929 the chair of the American Jewish Committee, Louis Marshall, and the president of the World Zionist Organization, Chaim Weizmann, signed an accord establishing the Jewish Agency for Palestine, which would support Jewish development of Palestine and represent Jewish interests in Palestine. In 1950, two years after the state of Israel was established, Jacob Blaustein, the chair of the American Jewish Committee, and David Ben-Gurion, prime minister of Israel, signed an accord in which the prime minister recognized that "the Jews of the United States, as a community and as individuals, have one political attachment and that is to the United States of America." The chair of the American Jewish Committee, for his part, noted that "the vast majority of the American Jewry recognizes the necessity and the desirability of helping to make it [Israel] a strong, viable, self-supporting state. . . . The American Jewish Committee has been active. . . and will continue to be. . . in rendering. . . every possible support to Israel." The ideas and assurances expressed in the 1950 accord have served as the basis of the committee's subsequent approach to Israel and world Jewish affairs.

By 2003 the American Jewish Committee had a membership of 100,000 and was headquartered in New York City, with thirty-three regional offices in the United States and international offices in Israel, Germany, Switzerland, and Poland and partnership agreements with Jewish communal associations in nine different countries as well as with the European Council of Jewish Communities. The American Jewish Committee no longer claims to be the sole representative of U.S. Jewry. Rather, it supports the security and well-being of Israel and seeks to safeguard world Jewry and to enhance the continuity and quality of Jewish life in the United States and elsewhere.

see also american council for judaism; american jewish congress; zionist organization of america.

Jerry Kutnick

views updated


: A Jewish-American association founded in 1906, the American Jewish Committee defined its purpose as the defense of the civil and religious rights of Jews in the United States and around the world. Its goals also include "to strengthen the basic principles of pluralism around the world as the best defense against anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry; and to enhance the quality of American Jewish life by helping to ensure Jewish continuity and deepen ties between American and Israeli Jews." By 2004 the organization had a membership of 100,000. It was headquartered in New York City, with regional offices across the United States and international offices in Europe and Israel.

SEE ALSO American Jewish Congress.

views updated

American Jewish Committee. Oldest Jewish defence organization, founded in 1906. It was formed in response to the extensive Russian pogroms of the time, and it lobbied for a liberal US immigration policy. From this committee grew the American Jewish Relief Committee and other philanthropic organizations, and it has sponsored numerous publications including The American Jewish Yearbook.