home |about | news | search | donate | IRmep



Direct Mail Fundraising Material - AMERICAN JEWISH COMMITTEE

February 27, 2018 AMERICAN JEWISH COMMITTEE direct mail fundraising appeal (PDF)
November 29, 2016 AMERICAN JEWISH COMMITTEE direct mail fundraising appeal (PDF)

The American Jewish Committee was founded in 1906 by 58 representatives of different Jewish communities as a district-based organization. Early on, the organization had designs on becoming quasi-governmental, through elections and a congress formed of delegates from various Jewish organizations. Nevertheless, noting the failure of an earlier attempt to create an American Jewish congress along similar representative lines, the American Jewish Committee settled on the non-representative, non-elective model most IAOs have today, according to internal reports:

...A third suggestion which was made was that a small committee be formed of persons who, while representative of American Jewry, need not necessarily be formally accredited representatives of any organization…this suggestion also met with opposition, but it was the only one upon which a majority of the conferees could agree…[1]

Like the Zionist Organization of America, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) was granted a charter of incorporation by the New York State Legislature in 1911, with a broad international mandate rather than a domestic social welfare function. That mandate states it exists:

1) To prevent the infraction of the civil and religious rights of Jews in any part of the world; 2) to render all lawful assistance and to take appropriate remedial action in the event of threatened or actual invasion or restriction of such rights or of unfavorable discrimination with respect thereto; 3) to secure for Jews equality of economic, social and educational opportunities; 4) to alleviate the consequences of persecution and to afford relief from calamities affecting Jews wherever they may occur.[2]

AJC built on B’nai B’rith’s early work on behalf of Jews throughout the world it felt were being marginalized—in the AJC’s case, through influence on U.S. foreign policy. A particular emphasis was reacting to Russian pogroms, after fleeting organizations such as Relief of Sufferers by Russian Massacres hosted successful fundraisers but then quickly disbanded.

Founding executive member and financier Jacob Schiff, who was determined to strike back at Czarist Russia over its pogroms, worked diligently to raise funding for Imperial Japan’s war against Russia. Japan sneak attacked Russian ships at Port Arthur on February 8-9 of 1904, in a bid to win hegemony over Manchuria and Korea. Schiff met with the Japanese official in charge of bond sales, Baron Korekiyo Takahashi, and became convinced that supporting Japan would strike a fatal blow against Russia.  He then urged major U.S. banks and insurance companies to buy up Japanese bonds going on sale May 12, 1904. Ultimately, $180 million was raised in the U.S. to help Japan win its war. The Emperor of Japan bestowed upon Schiff an honor normally given only to foreign princes, a visit to his Palace.Japan asked the U.S. to mediate a peace settlement that was conducted in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1905. President Theodore Roosevelt, like a subordinate left to write up meeting minutes, was less partisan than Schiff, and wanted to “end the war on terms that left both Russia and Japan a role to play in northeast China.”[3] [4]

In its 1916 annual report, the American Jewish Committee reported raising $3,760 to “undertake a thorough investigation of the Jews in belligerent countries, especially Russia.” It fought congressional legislation on literacy tests for immigrants in order “to safeguard the rights of Jewish immigrants who are refugees from persecution.” The AJC also tried to prevent the Federal Reserve from extending $25 million in trade credit to the Russian government. It pressured the Associated Press to include information about the plight of Jews whenever it wrote about Russia. The AJC also successfully intervened to prevent the extradition to Russia under a Russia-U.S. extradition treaty of two Jews—Jan Pouren and Christian Rudovitz—who had been convicted of arson and murder during revolutionary uprisings in Russia in 1905. Later, the Committee saw an opportunity to shape the aftermath of WWI, according to internal reports:

In addition to being compelled to face the need for relief on a large scale of our coreligionists in the war zones, a war of such magnitude might present to the Jews of neutral countries, and especially to the Jews of the United States, opportunities for influencing changes in the political status of the Jews to reside in countries where they do not enjoy equal rights.  Both aspects of the situation were closely studied.[5]

The Committee expected to have a significant role in any future peace conference—almost like a nation-state—by organizing an elite gathering in Washington with delegates from other major Jewish organizations to consolidate a list of demands for the United States to incorporate in its negotiations. Cyrus Adler, chairman of the American Jewish Committee, wanted to call it this a conference, but Justice Louis Brandeis insisted on using the more government-like designation a “congress.” Though Israel was not yet in existence the American Jewish Committee summed up its core mission in 1915 as the “accomplishment of Israel’s work in America.”

The transfer of Jewish populations from the Ottoman Empire “under whose tolerant sway the Jews had lived peacefully for several centuries,” concerned the Committee. It urged the U.S. to get involved under obscure 1891 doctrines emitted by President Harrison to Congress that “banishment” of large populations was “not a local question” and “acting in the name and at the behest of humanity whether American interests are involved or not,” even though internally the AJC assessed that “it [the United States] was supposed to have no standing.”

Today the American Jewish Committee routinely meets with heads of state and foreign military leaders to press Israel’s agenda, whether it is pushing for strict sanctions on Iran, or justifying Israel’s treatment and ongoing occupation of Palestinian land. If there is a Jewish community in the host country, the AJC involves its leadership in these meetings. It also leverages the reputation of the Israel lobby in the U.S., which is well known throughout many foreign capitals. The AJC delegations usually find open doors. In that sense, the American Jewish Committee also acts to augment Israel’s own diplomatic corps. In 1985, AJC President Howard Friedman met with the Pope, urging the Vatican to establish diplomatic ties with Israel, saying:

Such a move would reinforce the legitimization of Israel as a sovereign state and compel Arab rejectionist states to give up their illusion that Israel will somehow disappear.[6]

In 1989, an AJC delegation traveled to Tokyo to meet with Japanese government, trade, labor and business group leaders to suppress the publication of books by Masami Uno, an author of popular books such as If you understand Jews, you will come to understand the world. In response, the Japanese foreign ministry issued a letter directed to the entire domestic publishing industry not to print any books that might “unintentionally offend the most sensitive areas of Jewish psychology.” Ironically, the positive reception accorded the AJC and the response to its demands may have been influenced by lingering memories of Schiff’s powerful interventions on Japan’s behalf—something the AJC delegation certainly realized and documented. “Perceptions that the U.S. Jews might be more powerful than they really are—controlling, as Uno charged, GM, IBM or other major companies—could make Japanese more willing to listen to their concerns.”[7][8]

Two years later, the AJCs Pacific Rim Institute director announced that Japan was voting in the United Nations to rescind a 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism. That same year, the AJC led another delegation, ostensibly to reward Japan—which had a rare trade deficit with Israel, due to Israel’s heavy diamond exports—by opening up more direct trade with Israel—that is, if Japan stopped being too sympathetic to Palestinians or too vocally opposed to Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.[9]

In 1992, an AJC delegation met with Hungarian Foreign Minister Geza Jeszenszky about Hungarian Democratic Forum vice-president Istvan Csurka’s observations that a Jewish plutocracy existed. Jeszenszky issued reassuring remarks to the delegation that, “It is well-known that international plutocracy is multinational and has nothing to do with racial or religious circles.” In exchange, the AJC affirmed its view, without quoting any survey or other empirical evidence, that “anti-Semitism is least in Hungary for all of Europe.”[10]

The same year, alarmed that so many Soviet Jews were applying to immigrate to Germany rather than Israel, a 60-member-strong task force of AJC members met with local Jewish leaders to press the German government on the issue, while urging Chancellor Helmut Kohl to speed up the processing of Jewish claims on properties in East Germany seized by the Nazis and kept by the Communist governments that they be returned to their rightful owners.The AJC also proposed that Chancellor Kohl could tender loan guarantees for Israel to settle Soviet Jews because of “East Germany’s lack of reparations for Nazi crimes.”[11] [12]

In 1993, the AJC formally called for U.S. airstrikes on Bosnian Serb targets and a lifting of all arms embargoes on Bosnia. In a position at odds with its concern about Palestinian victims of ethnic cleansing, AJC called for international action against those responsible for atrocities and ethnic cleansing in former Yugoslavia.

In Germany, the AJC advised the government not to try to influence Holocaust education in the U.S. The Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which received German government funding, had offered organizers of the U.S. Holocaust Museum “millions of dollars” to fund programs that would study post-war German democracy-building efforts in conjunction with Holocaust history courses in the United States.German representatives approached George H. W. Bush administration officials and IAOs, suggesting that U.S. high schools add this study of post-war German democracy to the growing number of Holocaust history courses being offered around the country. The AJC reaction was swift, as reported by The Washington Post:[13]

A U.S. diplomat in Bonn said the Germans were told that school curricula are controlled by the states, not the federal government. And a senior official of the American Jewish Committee said he advised the Germans that efforts to steer attention away from the Holocaust Museum would not help Germany’s image. [14]

The American diplomat apparently had no idea how JCRCs and the lobby maneuvered all sorts of initiatives on Israel’s behalf, from bilateral economic and trade programs to education and training initiatives, through state legislatures.

Publication of findings from surveys chartered by the AJC are meant to trigger action for residents of U.S. and foreign cities to mend their ways. Like ADL surveys and later The Israel Project, some AJC surveys appear to be “weaponized,” through exposure and embarrassment, to punish or encourage changes in foreign countries and the United States—often through leading questions.

Like many other major IAOs, the American Jewish Committee’s activities appeared on the screen of the FBI. However, in AJC’s case the red flag was its survey activity. Perhaps without realizing that the Justice Department was only about a year away from the de facto termination of foreign agent enforcement attempts over IAOs, in 1969 the Special Agent in Command of the FBI’s New York field office observed a change in AJC’s survey bombsight. The agent addressed these concerns in a classified memo to the FBI director, which stated:

The enclosed LHM [Letterhead memo] reveals that the AJC has recently conducted a study of anti-Israeli propaganda as opposed to anti-Semitism. The AJC proposed definite steps to be taken to further the interest of the State of Israel…In view of the possibility that the AJC has incurred an obligation under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 as amended, it is recommended that this matter be referred to the Department of Justice for its opinion.[15]

In 1991, a short AJC-chartered poll published in The Wall Street Journal was succinct about Austria. According to Gallup, one-third of Austrians disliked Jews, and one-fifth wanted them barred from top jobs and believed the country would be better off without them.[16]

In 1992, a Roper poll charted by the AJC found that forty-seven percent of New Yorkers felt Jews had “too much influence” in city life and politics, with sixty-three percent of blacks and sixty-six percent of Hispanics feeling the same. Rather than use the data to analyze underlying causes, build bridges, or discuss how to “grow and share the pie,” David Singer of the AJC brushed it all off as sour grapes:

We are dealing here, unfortunately, with a zero-sum game in which groups that are less well-off manifest resentment, envy, jealousy and that is the focus of animosity toward Jews.[17]

In Britain, the AJC surveyed Holocaust knowledge, then used the data to trumpet back home that Americans were comparatively lacking in adequate knowledge, while becoming increasingly infected with denial, reporting:

Adults in Britain have more knowledge about the Holocaust than do U.S. adults, according to a Gallup poll for London’s Daily Telegraph. Survey questions were the same as those posed to U.S. adults in a survey last month by the American Jewish Committee. The polls show 41% of Britons, vs. 35% of Americans, know 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust; 76% of Britons, vs. 62% of Americans, know that Auschwitz, Dachau and Treblinka were Nazi concentration camps; 7% of Britons, vs. 22% of Americans, said it seems possible the Nazi extermination might not have happened.[18]

Like a sovereign state, the AJC occasionally issues threats against other players in the international system, in one news report threatening to reveal tightly held UN information it had somehow obtained:

A leading American Jewish organization said today that it would publish a list of 40,000 names of possible World War II criminals contained in secret United Nations archives unless the archives are opened to inspection soon. The threat came from the American Jewish Committee on the eve of a meeting here of representatives of the 17 member countries of the United Nations War Crimes Commission to discuss opening the archives. Last month, several countries expressed fear that public inspection of the archives could lead to unfounded accusations against people still alive.[19]

In the 1990s, the AJC began to insist that it was not—in fact—an organization primarily dedicated to advancing what it originally termed “Jewish interests” on the global stage, but was instead a “human rights” organization. In subsequent clarifications, it insisted that since Jews were the canary in the coalmine, or the first to suffer human rights abuses, they of course, warranted special AJC monitoring and support—implying that the AJC did not really have to do anything differently than what it had done since 1906. The AJC claimed its office in Berlin, for example, is really a “sentinel against bias.”

In politics, AJC issued judgements on foreign affairs that some presidents viewed as pivotal for the future. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush linked U.S. loan guarantees to Israel’s halting settlement expansion and not using settlements as a destination for the huge influx of Soviet Jews. Bush even dared to call out the Israel lobby, a move which threatened to ignite anti-Semitism, retired AJC head Hyman Bookbinder, told The Washington Post:

Hyman Bookbinder, everyone’s favorite Jewish lobbyist who recently retired from the American Jewish Committee, is an impassioned advocate of Israel. He deplores Bush’s methods and tactics, but thinks that he has a point on substance. To Bookbinder, Bush’s Sept. 12 attack on the Jewish lobby and his depiction of himself as “one lonely little guy” up against thousands of lobbyists, was “a political temper tantrum, a disgrace” and a clumsy and dangerous move that could ignite ever-menacing antisemitism.[20]

The George H.W. Bush administration made a last-ditch effort to repair relations with the AJC by sending over a State Department official. Edward Djerejian, after speaking at the organization’s 87th annual conference, was dubbed an “Arabist” pandering to Israel, sent by an administration unable to deliver anything of substance. That November, Bush lost his bid for reelection.

The American Jewish Committee provides positive reinforcement to friendly journalists through its “Mass Media Award,” and there are many heads to pat. Recipients have included Walter Cronkite, New York Times reporters Tom Friedman and A.M. Rosenthal, Bill Moyers, the MacNeil/Lehrer Report, Martin Peretz of the New Republic, and The Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham.

Long considered one of the “big four” organizations, the AJC did not seek membership in the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations until 1991. It did so to even more heavily influence U.S. foreign policy on Israel according to news reports:

‘I think this is the ultimate recognition that all parts of the organized American Jewish community now look to the Conference of Presidents as the spokesman for organized Jewry in areas involving Israel and foreign policy,’ said Julius Berman, a former Presidents Conference chairman. Said American Jewish Committee deputy director Shula Bahat: ‘We had the sense that the kinds of challenges the American Jewish community is going to face in the near future, particularly where Israel and Soviet Jewry are involved, will require as much unity as possible.’[21]

Similarly, upon reopening its office in Berlin in 1998, the American Jewish Committee’s official announcement sounded more like the proclamation of a foreign government reestablishing diplomatic relations through opening a long-shuttered embassy, according to yet another Washington Post article:

With Germany now playing host to the fastest-growing Jewish population in the world, leaders of the American Jewish Committee today opened their first office here since the Nazi era, vowing to sustain the memory of the Holocaust and to fight any revival of right-wing extremism…’The U.S. lags far behind Israel in understanding developments in Germany over the past 50 years,’ [David] Harris said in an interview. ‘This must change because Germany remains important to the Jewish future in more ways than we can imagine.’ ‘Before the Nazis rose to power in 1933, Berlin was a flourishing financial and cultural metropolis that owed much of its dynamism to a lively and prosperous Jewish community…’[22]

No Israeli claim has seemingly been too small for a formal AJC inquiry seeking active involvement of the top officials from U.S. federal agencies (particularly the Treasury Department) and top foreign governments: unpaid insurance policies on Holocaust victims; gold stolen by Nazis and hidden in Swiss banks; property that went behind the Iron Curtain. Utterly lost on the AJC is the irony of all its insistence on reparations even as Israel continues to appropriate and annex lands and property that do not belong to it.


[1] Ninth Annual Report of the American Jewish Committee, The American Jewish Year Book, Vol. 18, September 28, 1916 to September 16, 1917, 328

[2] Ninth Annual Report of the American Jewish Committee, The American Jewish Year Book, Vol. 18, September 28, 1916 to September 16, 1917, 334

[3] Gary Dean Best, “Financing a Foreign War: Jacob H. Schiff and Japan, 1904-05,” American Jewish Historical Review no. 61 1971/72: 2, Stephen Birmingham,. Our Crowd: The Great Jewish Families of New York [New York: Harper & Row, 1967]:3  Naomi Wiener Cohen, Jacob H. Schiff: a Study in American Jewish Leadership. [Brandeis University  Press, Hanover, N.H. 1999]:4, Cyrus Adler, Jacob H.  Schiff  [Jewish Publication  Society, Philadelphia: 1947]

[4] U.S. Department of State, “Office of the Historian, Milestones: 1899-1913, the Treaty of Portsmouth and the Russo-Japanese War 1904-1905” https://history.state.gov/milestones/1899-1913/portsmouth-treaty

[5] Ninth Annual Report of the American Jewish Committee, The American Jewish Year Book, Vol. 18, September 28, 1916 to September 16, 1917, 308

[6] American Jewish Committee letter to the editor printed in The New York Times, November 19, 1985

[7] David Rosenfeld, “Anti-Semitic Books Spark U.S. Initiative,” The Daily Yomiuri, December 13, 1989.

[8] David Rosenfeld, “Anti-Semitic Books Spark U.S. Initiative,” The Daily Yomiuri, December 13, 1989.

[9] T.R. Reid, “Japan, Israel Improving Commercial Ties; New Trade Links Raise Prospects for Closer Political Cooperation,” The Washington Post, Foreign Service, July 12, 1991

[10] “Hungarian Foreign Minister Addresses the UN,” MTI Econews, September 25, 1992

[11] Mark Heinrich, “Germany tempts Soviet Jews,” The Independent, February 7, 1992

[12] “Bonn may help Israel over loans,” The Independent, February 5, 1992

[13] Marc Fisher, “Germany’s Holocaust Fears; Museum Offered Millions to Update Image,” The Washington Post, March 30, 1993

[14] Marc Fisher, “Germany’s Holocaust Fears; Museum Offered Millions to Update Image,” The Washington Post, March 30, 1993

[15] “FBI SAC, New York recommends FARA referral of AJC,” The Israel Lobby Archive, http://IsraelLobby.org/AJC/07231969_AJC.pdf

[16] “Austrians Dislike Jews,” The Wall Street Journal, October 25, 1991

[17] “47% in N.Y. Say Jews Are Too Influential,” The Washington Post, October 17, 1992

[18] Arlene Vigoda, “Holocaust Knowledge,” USA Today, May 19, 1993

[19] “Group Threatens to Publish List of War-Crime Suspects,” Special to The New York Times, October 13, 1987

[20] Mary McGrory, “Hardly a Lonely Stand on Israel,” The Washington Post, October 1, 1991

[21] J.J. Goldberg, “Joining the Pack,” The Jerusalem Report, April 4, 1991

[22] William Drosdiak, “Jewish Group Returns to Berlin-U.S. Organization Aims to Improve Understanding,” The Washington Post, February 10, 1998

Organization historical content excerpted with permission from the book BIG ISRAEL How Israel's Lobby Moves America

Back to Direct Mail Fundraising

home |about | news | search | donate
Contents of this website Copyright 2008-2017 Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy, Inc. All rights reserved.           
Terms and Conditions for use of materials found on this website.