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Hoenlein, Malcolm

HOENLEIN, MALCOLM

HOENLEIN, MALCOLM (1944– ), executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. Hoenlein was born in Philadelphia, received his B.A. from Temple University and his M.A. in international relations from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1971 Hoenlein came to New York to become the first head of the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry, an organization established to coordinate all activities in the New York area on behalf of the cause of Soviet Jews. Working with all the New York Jewish organizations, Hoenlein planned and executed numerous protests and rallies throughout the New York area, including the annual "Solidarity Sunday" demonstration. In 1976 Hoenlein became the first executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater New York (ny-jcrc), which became a powerful coordinating voice for the Jewish community of New York.

Upon the death of Yehuda Hellman in 1986, Hoenlein was asked to become the head of the Presidents' Conference (or the *Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, the umbrella body for 52 national Jewish organizations). As executive vice chairman, he developed the organization into the key address and contact for the voice of American Jews. The organization addressed all the major issues of the day, both within the United States, in Israel, and throughout the world from the perspective of how they affected American Jews. Hoenlein met with leaders in the United States and Israel and traveled with the lay chairs of the organization to meet with heads of state, political leaders, and Jewish leaders all around the globe.

For Hoenlein, maintaining consensus within the Presidents' Conference was a challenge which he generally mastered, although he was frequently tested by numerous constituent organizations from the right to the left and from all religious persuasions. Some of the biggest confrontations with which Hoenlein had to contend concerned defining American Jewry's role vis-à-vis the State of Israel and the government of Israel. In particular the Presidents' Conference has had numerous debates as to the extent to which the organization could or should take issue with Israeli government policy. Despite being often perceived by some of the member organizations as being too supportive of rightist Israeli governments and less so of others, no organization or leader has ever argued that Hoenlein's perceived enthusiasm was not based on his clear belief of what was best for Israel and for American Jews. Hoenlein was the recipient of numerous awards and honors from national and international Jewish organizations. Hoenlein was also the first senior professional of any major, national Jewish organization to be a kippah-wearing Orthodox Jew. He was a frequent writer and contributor to both the general and the Jewish media.

[Gilbert N. Kahn (2nd ed.)]

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