Jewish Council on Public Affairs

views updated


JEWISH COUNCIL ON PUBLIC AFFAIRS (jcpa ; formerly, The National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council ). The jcpa was formally established as the National Community Relations Advisory Council (ncrac) in 1944 by the Council of Jewish Federations, with the object of formulating policy and coordinating the work of national and local Jewish agencies in the field of community relations in the United States. ncrac was designed to be the public affairs branch of the organized Jewish community; its name has been changed twice. The first time, in 1968, just after the June 1967 War, the word Jewish was added to make it the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council and emphasize a fact that had previously not been manifest – that this was a Jewish organization – and a second time, in 1997, it was changed to the Jewish Council for Public Affairs to more accurately reflect its mission.

Before 1944, as organized antisemitic activity became a serious problem in the United States, there was much overlapping and competition among the Jewish organizations seeking to combat it. The Jewish Welfare Funds, beset with claims for support, exercised pressure for the coordination of activities, and the result was the establishment of the Council. It was composed initially of four national organizations and 14 local community relations councils. The purpose was to enable member agencies to exchange views and to work together voluntarily, while each member retained full autonomy.

While the Council secured a measure of coordination, competitive activity and jurisdictional conflicts remained, and in 1950, at the insistence of the larger welfare funds, the Council instituted a study of Jewish community relations work. The result was the R.M. MacIver Report, under which the authority and responsibilities of the Council would have been enlarged considerably and separate spheres of activity allotted to its member agencies. The Council generally favored these proposals, but the result was the withdrawal from membership of its two most active constituents, the American Jewish Committee and the B'nai B'rith (1952). The latter returned to membership in 1965 and the Committee in the following year on terms which emphasized the autonomy of the member organizations. In 1968 the membership of the Council consisted of nine national organizations and 81 state or local community relations councils.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (jcpa) serves as the representative voice of the organized American Jewish community in addressing the mandate of the Jewish community relations field. The mandate is expressed in two, interrelated goals: (1) to safeguard the rights of Jews in the U.S., in Israel, and around the world; and, in order to accomplish that, (2) to protect, preserve, and promote a just American society, one that is democratic and pluralistic.

These goals are pursued in a non-partisan manner informed by Jewish values. The Council's dual goals link the safety and security of Jewish interests with the protection of American democratic traditions and social justice at home. The Jewish community, it believes, has a direct stake – along with an ethical imperative– in assuring that America remains a country wedded to the Bill of Rights and committed to the rule of law, whose institutions continue to function as a public trust.

The jcpa reflects a unique and inclusive partnership of national member agencies, local community relations councils and committees, and the federations of which they are a component part or affiliated agency. It convenes the "common table" around which member agencies, through an open, representative, inclusive and consensus-driven process, meet to identify issues, articulate positions, and develop strategies, programs, and approaches designed to advance the public affairs, goals and objectives of the organized Jewish community.

The work of the jcpa, especially in matters relating to democratic pluralism and social justice, reflects the organizations emphasis on the Jewish value of tikkun olam, the repair of the world. It expresses the conviction of the organized Jewish community that it must be active in the effort to build a just society. The jcpa has the responsibility to enhance the capacity of member agencies to effectively pursue the public affairs agenda. This responsibility requires the jcpa to provide coordination, support, and guidance for public affairs initiatives undertaken by national and local member agencies, to advocate on behalf of the public affairs policies of the organized Jewish community, and to respond to those member-identified needs which strengthen their individual and collaborative capacity to advance the communal public affairs agenda.

Among the national organizations that constitute jcpa are each of the major Jewish defense agencies, adl, *American Jewish Committee and *American Jewish Congress (aside from the *Simon Wiesenthal Center), the major religious denominations, *Hadassah, and the *Jewish Labor Committee, the *Jewish War Veterans, *National Council of Jewish Women as well as 122 local equal and independent partner agencies. The jcpa serves as a catalyst that heightens community awareness, encourages civic and social involvement, and deliberates key issues of importance to the Jewish community.

[Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]

About this article

Jewish Council on Public Affairs

Updated About content Print Article


Jewish Council on Public Affairs