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American Jewish League for Israel (AJLI), records

 Collection
Identifier: I-537

Scope and Content Note

The records of the American Jewish League for Israel represent its work to support the State of Israel without alignment to political parties. Its activities are documented in meeting events, minutes, platforms, proceedings, resolutions, and other historical documents, correspondence and publications.

Dates

  • 1927, 1957-2009

Creator

Language of Materials

The collection is in English and Hebrew.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.

Use Restrictions

Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. For more information contact:

American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY, 10011

email: reference@ajhs.org

Historical Note

American Jewish League for Israel (AJLI) (New York) (1957- )

The American Jewish League for Israel (AJLI), headquartered in New York City, was formed in 1957 in New York State in reaction to what was perceived as an undemocratic and partisan approach to Zionism in the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), in which AJLI Zionists had formerly been members. In 1955, long-time Zionist leader Louis Lipsky had conceived "the idea of an organization to offer support to Israel but have no part in politics."1 By the time the ZOA held its annual convention in Miami in 1957, there were enough supporters around this non-partisan point of view that a splinter group had formed. The splinter group incorporated in New York State as a non-profit organization under the name Independent Zionists of America (IZA) on February 7, 1957, and the certificate was filed on February 11th.2 The Independent Zionists of America (IZA), held its founding assembly on May 18-19, 1957, just days before the May 21st ZOA convention in Florida. At that assembly, IZA voted to change its name to the American Jewish League for Israel. One of the reasons for the name change was the greater appeal of the word "Israel" than the word "Zionist" to American Jewish youth.3

The reaction of the Zionist Organization of America to the dissident group was swift - and negative. ZOA president emeritus Dr. Emanuel Neumann spoke against the splinter group at a meeting of the National Executive Council of the ZOA at the Miami convention, saying, "In truth, so far as the Zionist Movement is concerned - as in all democratic movements - you are either a party or you are nothing; you simply don't count."4 An AJLI pamphlet, published in August, 1957, The ZOA and Israeli Politics, answered Neumann and other ZOA attackers. In this pamphlet, AJLI detailed the close relationship between the ZOA and the General Zionist Party of Israel, an affiliation it said was denied by ZOA leaders.5 Text on the political affiliation of the ZOA with a specific Israeli political party indicated that ZOA food parcels were promised to Israeli voters who supported the election of representatives from the General Zionist Party to the Israeli Knesset in 1951.6 Further, the pamphlet alleged, the ZOA premises in Tel-Aviv were used as headquarters for the General Zionist Party during the 1955 elections, concluding: "No other Israeli party could even rent a room in this "neutral" outpost of American Jewry during that election."7 The pamphlet then recounted the failure of efforts to revise this policy of close party identification by reforming the ZOA from within, alleging suppression of any opposition by what had become a "party machine" organization.8

The preoccupation of the American Jewish League for Israel with non-alignment is the theme that shows up most often in statements about the organization. An undated letter starting "Dear Fellow Member" says: "…the philosophy of non-identification is essential for all Zionist Organizations in order best to serve the interests of the State of Israel and the Jewish people." It concludes:

The League stands on a platform calling for one united group of all friends of Israel, no matter what their social or political beliefs. It seeks to be the one voice for Israel in America.9

A "Statement of Policy" by AJLI president, Ezra Shapiro, says:

The League, as an organization believing firmly in the principle of non-identification with any political parties in Israel, will adhere undeviatingly to this principle, not only in word, but, more importantly, in act and deed. We mean to maintain our independence, as an organization of American Jews pledged to promote knowledgeable and abiding interest in Israel's welfare and closer, mutually meaningful relations between Israel and the American Jewish community.10

The preamble of the constitution of the American Jewish League for Israel says: "…We have joined to establish this organization composed of American Jews who stand above class or political party."11

Finally, an undated pamphlet entitled The American Jew and the State of Israel says:

The AMERICAN JEWISH LEAGUE FOR ISRAEL aspires to bring together those who, though they may differ among themselves in their philosophies of Jewish life, are united in a common commitment to the historic ideals that have ever clustered about the vision of Zion reborn. It stands above class or political party, and is dedicated to the welfare of Israel as a whole.12

As to specific activities, The American Jew and the State of Israel pamphlet states the intention of AJLI to publish a periodical, interest American Jewish youth in Israel, and establish special interest groups to promote Israel through local AJLI chapters in America.13

To some degree, the American Jewish League for Israel has accomplished all the aims set out in The American Jew and the State of Israel. It has published an organizational newsletter, originally entitled the AJLI Bulletin and currently called The Voice, since 1959; it has established a scholarship fund to send young American Jewish students to Israel for educational enrichment since 1988; and regional chapters of AJLI have been flourishing since the 1990s. Judging by the amount of material in the files, outreach to young American Jews has been a priority of AJLI.

Footnotes

  1. 1 Sandberg, Louise, processor. Finding Aid, Guide to the Papers of Louis Lipsky: Biographical Note, paragraph 8, Collection P-672.
  2. 2 Certificate of Incorporation of Independent Zionists of America, Inc. In: Series I, Box 2, Folder 3.
  3. 3 Independent Zionists of America. Proceedings [at the] National Founding Assembly, N.Y., May 18th-19th, 1957, pp.80, 95. (typescript) In: Series 1, Box 4, Folder 1.
  4. 4 Neumann, Dr. Emanuel. What's in a Name? A Statement on the "American Jewish League for Israel." N.Y.: Zionist Organization for America, 1957, p.11. In: Series 1, Box 4, Folder 4.
  5. 5 American Jewish League for Israel. The ZOA and Israeli Politics: A Statement. [N.Y.: AJLI?] August, 1957, p.5. In: Series I, Box 2, Folder 2.
  6. 6 Ibid.
  7. 7 Ibid., p.6.
  8. 8 Ibid., pp.7-8.
  9. 9 Anonymous. "Dear Fellow Member" [letter]. [1962?] In: Series 1, Box 2, Folder 2.
  10. 10 Shapiro, Ezra Z. "Statement of Policy." Undated. In: Series 1, Box 2, Folder 2.
  11. 11 American Jewish League for Israel. Constitution and By-Laws: Preamble, [p.1]. In: Series 1, Box 2, Folder 1.
  12. 12 American Jewish League for Israel. The American Jew and the State of Israel. N.Y.: AJLI. Undated, [p.2]. In: David Diamond Collection (P-59), Box 4, "American Jewish League for Israel" folder [Folder 1].
  13. 13 Ibid., [p.3].

Extent

2 Linear Feet (4 manuscript boxes)

Abstract

Contains records on the formation, purpose, and activities of the American Jewish League for Israel, as reflected in organizational documents (including minutes), event literature, publications (including the AJLI newsletter, AJLI Bulletin, later called the AJLI News Bulletin and other titles), scholarship material, financial information, membership appeals, correspondence, media coverage, and photographs.

Acquisition Information

Gift of the American Jewish League for Israel, donated on March 31, 2011 by AJLI Executive Director Jeff Scheckner.

Related Material

David Diamond Collection (P-59), Box 4, "American Jewish League for Israel" folder.

Louis Lipsky Collection (P-672), especially the text of the finding aid by Louise Sandberg.
Title
Guide to the Records of American Jewish League for Israel (AJLI), 1927, 1957-2009   *I-537
Status
In Progress
Author
Processed by Carmen Hendershott
Date
© 2011
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

Contact:
15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States