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The American Jewish Committee (AJC) was "founded in 1906 with the aim of rallying all sections of American Jewry to defend the rights of Jews all over the world. It is one of the oldest Jewish advocacy organizations in the United Statesmarker.

About

The American Jewish Committee, established in 1906 by a small group of American Jews concerned about pogroms aimed at Russian Jews, determined that the best way to protect Jewish populations in danger would be to work towards a world in which all peoples were accorded respect and dignity.

AJC is an international think tank and advocacy organization whose key areas of focus are: combating anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry; promoting pluralism and shared democratic values; supporting Israel's quest for peace and security; advocating for energy independence; strengthening Jewish life.

The organization has local chapters in 32 American cities, 8 overseas offices, and 27 international partnerships with Jewish communal institutions around the world.

AJC's American offices include the Belfer Center for American Pluralism, the Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, Contemporary Jewish Life, Domestic Policy and Legal Affairs, Interreligious Affairs, Latin American Affairs, Middle East and International Terrorism, the Office of Government and International Affairs, Project Interchange, and Russian Affairs. AJC publishes the American Jewish Year Book.

As of 2009, the AJC is one of many partner organizations of the Austrian Service Abroad (√Ėsterreichischer Auslandsdienst) and the corresponding Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service (√Ėsterreichischer Gedenkdienst).

Mission

The organization's mission statement is ‚Äúto safeguard the welfare and security of Jews in the United States, in Israelmarker, and throughout the world; to strengthen the basic principles of pluralism around the world, as the best defense against anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry; to enhance the quality of American Jewish life by helping to ensure Jewish continuity and deepen the ties between American and Israeli Jews.‚ÄĚ

History

AJC was established in 1906 by a small group of American Jews concerned about pogroms aimed at the Jewish population of Russiamarker. "According to the official statement of the committee...it is to prevent infringement of the civil and religious rights of Jews and to alleviate the consequences of persecution." AJC has since headed advocacy campaigns on issues such as Holocaust denial, church-state relations, and American dependence on foreign oil.

Louis B. Marshall served as president from 1912 until 1929. Under his tenure, AJC helped create in 1914 the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, established to aid Jewish victims of World War I, and later to play an instrumental role in aiding Jewish victims of World War II and the Holocaust.

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.

In the 1970s, AJC spearheaded the fight to pass anti-boycott legislation to counter the Arab League boycott of Israel. In 1975, AJC became the first Jewish organization to campaign against the UN's "Zionism is Racism" resolution.

In December 1987, AJC's Washington representative, David A. 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 USSRmarker.

In 1992, Japanmarker, citing AJC's diplomacy, reversed its policy of supporting the Arab League boycott of Israel.

In 1997, AJC became the first American Jewish organization to establish a full-time presence in Germany. The AJC Berlin Office / Lawrence and Lee Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations, opened in 1998, works to combat anti-Semitism and promote education in democratic values.

In 2000, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dore Gold, cited AJC as playing a central role in Israel's gaining acceptance into the UN's Western Europe and Others Group.

In 2001, "the American Jewish Committee and the World Jewish Congress reached an agreement, approved by the international board of UN Watch, to transfer full control of the organization [e.g. UN Watch] to AJC." From UN Watch's founding in 1993 until January 2001, UN Watch was a joint responsibility of AJC and the WJC.

In 2003, AJC opened in Brussels the Transatlantic Institute, aimed at fostering improved relations between Europe, Israel, and the U.S. That same year, AJC 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, AJC contributed $2.5 million to relief funds and reconstruction projects for the victims of the South Asian tsunamimarker and Hurricane Katrina.

Controversy

Unification Church

The AJC released a report on the Unification Church in 1976, which centered on passages found in Divine Principle, the church's basic text, stating that it contained "pejorative language, stereotyped imagery, and accusations of collective sin and guilt." In a news conference consisting of the AJC, and representatives of Catholic and Protestant churches, panelists stated that the text 'contained over 125 anti-Semitic references.' The panelists noted church founder Sun Myung Moon's public recent condemnation of "anti Semitism and anti-Christian attitudes", and called upon him to make a "comprehensive and systematic removal" of antisemitic and anti-Christian references in Divine Principle as a demonstration of good faith.

In 1977 the Unification Church issued a rebuttal to the report, stating that it was neither comprehensive nor reconciliatory, but was rather had a "hateful tone" and was filled with "sweeping denunciations." It denied that Divine Principle teaches antisemitism and gave detailed responses to 17 specific allegations contained in the AJC's report.

New Anti-Semitism

In an essay, ‚ÄúProgressive‚ÄĚ Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism by Alvin H. Rosenfeld, published on its web site, the AJC 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 them of supporting a rise in anti-Semitism, and of participating in an "onslaught against Zionism and the Jewish State".

In an editorial, 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 or, from someone like Reinharz, the most powerful of all post-Holocaust condemnations‚ÄĒanti-Semite‚ÄĒis diluted beyond recognition".

The essay was also criticized by rabbi Michael Lerner and in op-eds inThe Guardianand The Boston Globe, where Stanley I. Kutler noted that the AJC itself had opposed the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine until 1946.

Executive Director David A. Harris explained why AJC published Rosenfeld's essay in a Jerusalem Post op-ed, saying:
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.


References

  1. Speaking to Power: Nathan Abrams assesses the changing fortunes of Commentary magazine, Jewish Quarterly.
  2. New York Times, Nov. 11, 1907, pg 16
  3. UN Watch, AJC Seal Partnership, January 2, 2001, American Jewish Committee. Accesses 2009-08-18.
  4. –Ē–ĺ–ľ - AJC - Russian
  5. Humanitarian Campaigns
  6. Rudin, A. James, 1978 A View of the Unification Church, American Jewish Committee Archives
  7. Sun Myung Moon Is Criticized by Religious Leaders; Jewish Patrons Enraged, David F. White, New York Times, December 29, 1976
  8. Response to A. James Rudin's Report, Unification Church Department of Public Affairs, Daniel C. Holdgeiwe, Johnny Sonneborn, March 1977.


See also



External links




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