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Isaiah Leo Kenen Papers

Identifier: P-680

Scope and Content Note

The bulk of the Isaiah L. Kenen Papers document ILK’s career from 1943 to 1973, the period during which he was most active in the Zionist movement. The collection is arranged in five series: Series I: Correspondence, Series II: Subject Files, Series III: Writings and Speeches, Series IV: Scrapbooks, and Series V: Publications. Original order and the original folder titles were retained wherever possible.

Series I: Correspondence comprises ILK's chronological correspondence files and includes both incoming and outgoing correspondence. However, a significant portion of the correspondence in the collection can be found in Series II: Subject Files, arranged by subject, organization name, or by name of the individual correspondent. Correspondence files of particular interest to researchers include: American Jewish Conference: Correspondence, 1945-1946 (Box 4, Folder 40); American Zionist Council: Lipsky, Louis, 1951-1953 (Box 4, Folder 50); Eban, Abba: Family Correspondence, 1950-1953, 1976 (Box 9, Folder 94); Israel: Correspondence, undated, 1948-1982 (Boxes 10-11, Folders 120-122); Israel Office of Information: Correspondence, 1948-1950 (Box 11, Folder 132); and United Nations: Correspondence, 1947-1949 (Box 16, Folder 197).

Series II: Subject Files is especially strong in materials that document ILK's lobbying techniques. ILK's confidential reports to Louis Lipsky during the earliest phase of his career as a registered lobbyist are located in American Zionist Council: Reports from Washington Office, 1950-1954 (Box 5, Folders 52-57). Other materials documenting ILK's methods include his files on US political, financial, and military policies toward Israel. Such information can be found in Aid to Israel, undated, 1950-1977 (Box 2, Folders 20-24; OS2, Folder 278), Arms for Arabs, undated, 1949-1955, (Box 7, Folder 71), the Department of State files (Boxes 8-9, Folders 86-92), House of Representatives: Correspondence, 1954-1980 (Box 10, Folder 117), Senate: Correspondence, 1945-1980 (Box 15, Folder 188), White House, 1955-1975 (Box 17, Folders 210-211), and under the names of individual politicians and Department of State officials.

Series II: Subject Files also includes a significant amount of material relating to ILK's work for the Jewish Agency and, after the establishment of the state in 1948, the Government of Israel. This information is arranged under several headings in Series II, including: Israel: Correspondence, undated, 1948-1954 (Box 10, Folder 120); Israel Office of Information (Boxes 11-12, Folders 132-139); Jewish Agency for Palestine (Box 12, Folders 141-143); and United Nations (Boxes 16-17, Folders 196-209).

Other materials in Series II: Subject Files of interest to researchers include: "America and Zionism," circa 1952 (Box 2, Folder 25), an unpublished(?) collection of Zionist and pro-Israel statements made by prominent American politicians ranging from John Adams to Adlai Stevenson; and Arab-Israel Dispute, Basic Documents, 1919-1968 (Box 7, Folders 66-68).

Series III: Writings and Speeches comprises articles and speeches by ILK, as well as materials relating to the writing of, the publication of, and the publicity for ILK's book Israel's Defense Line. The bulk of Series III consists of speeches on the political situation in the Middle East and AIPAC's pro-Israel lobbying activities, which ILK delivered before various Jewish groups throughout the United States and Canada.

Series IV: Scrapbooks includes two types of scrapbooks. Most of the scrapbooks are photocopies of subject-oriented scrapbooks of memorabilia (including newspaper clippings, speeches, photographs, and correspondence) compiled by ILK. The scrapbooks are arranged alphabetically by cover title. Researchers should be aware that the cover title frequently reflects the subject of only the first section of the book, and other materials of interest may follow, in no particular order. The collection contains only one of the original albums from which these copies were made. The original documents were removed from the album; the photographs can be found in the photograph collection. The other group of scrapbooks in the series are entitled Personal Publicity (Boxes 25-27; Box 23, Folder 272; Box 28, Folder 277; Box 30, Folder 282), and are arranged in loose chronological order.

The collection contains a comparatively small amount of information on ILK's life before 1943. Most of the pre-1943 materials, which can be found in Series II. Subject Files: Cleveland: Zionist Activities, undated, 1937-1943, 1961 (Box 8, Folder 79) and Series IV: Scrapbooks, undated, 1925-1985 (Boxes 22-23, 25-27, 28, and 30), are related to ILK's Zionist activities in Cleveland. A small amount of the material in Series IV: Scrapbooks provides information on ILK's family, education, and journalism career.

Also included in the collection is a group of publications relating to the establishment, history, and continuing existence of the State of Israel. These materials are in Series V: Publications, undated, 1943-1975 (Boxes 23-24).


  • undated, 1919-1985


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


Biographical Note

Isaiah Leo (Si) Kenen (ILK) was born in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada on March 7, 1905, the only child of Emanuel Isaac and Rebecca Friedberg Kenen. The family (which includes ILK’s four elder half-sisters), all ardent Zionists, moved to Toronto in 1911. In 1917, at the suggestion of house-guest Henrietta Szold, the founder of Hadassah, ILK helped organize the first Young Judea chapter in Toronto. He went on to earn a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Toronto in 1925 and an L.L.B. from Cleveland Law School in 1940.

ILK began his career in journalism as a contributor to various Toronto newspapers as an undergraduate, and as a reporter for the Toronto Star in 1925-1926. In 1926, he moved to Cleveland, Ohio, to write for the Cleveland News. While living in Cleveland, ILK was active in the Jewish community as a Sunday school teacher at the Euclid Avenue Temple, 1929-1943; as Chairman of the Cleveland Jewish Welfare Federation Public Relations Committee, 1933-1943; and as president of the Cleveland Zionist District, 1940-1943. ILK was also a founder, in 1933, of the first Cleveland local of the American Newspaper Guild (ANG). He served as chairman of the first, and subsequent five, ANG Constitution Committees; as president of the Cleveland ANG in 1937; and as an international vice president of the ANG, 1938-1940. In addition, ILK was a correspondent for the Cincinnati Inquirer (1930-40), and the Editor (1933-1936) of The City, the newspaper of the Cleveland City Club.

In 1943, ILK's involvement in Zionist affairs became his full-time occupation when he moved to New York to accept the position of information director of the American Zionist Emergency Council. Later in 1943, he began working for the American Jewish Conference as their public relations director. ILK became the Executive Secretary of the American Jewish Conference in 1945, a position he held until 1947. In 1947, ILK became the information director for the Jewish Agency for Palestine delegation at the United Nations. When the State of Israel came into existence in 1948, ILK became the information director and an alternate representative of the first Israel delegation to the United Nations.

In 1951, ILK became the Washington representative and registered lobbyist of the American Zionist Council (AZC), which was headed by Louis Lipsky and had no official connection with the Israel government. The AZC's main mission was to lobby Congress primarily for financial, but also military, aid to Israel. The AZC also lobbied for changes in the Department of State's policies toward Israel. On March 22, 1954, the Washington lobby of the AZC became a separate entity, renamed the American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs (AZCPA). ILK was Executive Director and a registered lobbyist for AZCPA, which became the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in 1959, until 1974. ILK was Chairman of AIPAC, 1974-1975; and Honorary Chairman, 1975-88. While Executive Director of AIPAC, ILK founded Near East Report, which he edited from 1957 to 1973. In 1973, ILK became president of Near East Research. During his tenure at AIPAC, ILK also drafted statements and speeches on Israel and US policy in the Middle East for many politicians, including: Hubert Humphrey, Harry S. Truman, and John F. Kennedy.

In 1981, ILK's memoir of the Israel lobby on Capitol Hill, Israel's Defense Line, was published by Prometheus Books. All My Causes, a collection of anecdotes of ILK's experiences as a journalist, Zionist, and lobbyist, was published by Near East Research in 1985.

ILK was the recipient of many honors and awards, both for journalism and for service to the Jewish community.

ILK died in Washington, D.C. on March 23, 1988.

For more biographical information see:

American Jewish Yearbook, v. 90, 1988, p. 611.

Kenen, I.L. All My Causes. Near East Research, 1985.

--. Israel's Defense Line. Prometheus Books, 1981.

Kenen Papers. Series III. Writings and Speeches: Israel's Defense Line: Publicity, undated, 1981-1982 (Box 22, Folder 261; and Box 30, Folder 280).

Kenen Papers. Series IV. Scrapbooks: Personal Publicity, undated, 1925-1975 (Boxes 25-27; Box 23, Folder 272; Box 28, Folder 277; Box 30, Folder 282).

Who's Who in American Jewry, 1980, p. 259.


20.2 Linear Feet (23 manuscript boxes, 2 half manuscript boxes, 3 [18x12x3] oversized boxes, 1 [21x17x3] oversized box, 1 [25x21x3] oversized box)


The bulk of the collection documents Kenen’s Zionist activities, his work with the United Nations, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and its predecessor organizations and the Near East Report. Materials include correspondence, reports, newspaper clippings, publications, press releases, manuscripts, notes, photographs, speeches, and scrapbooks.

Acquisition Information

The Society acquired the collection as a bequest from Isaiah L. Kenen upon his death in 1988.

Appraisal Information

The collection originally included a large number of reprints of journal articles relating to Israel, US foreign policy and the Middle East. These materials have been deaccessioned. Also included in the collection were publications relating to the establishment, history, and continuing existence of the State of Israel, many of which were duplicates of materials already cataloged in the Society’s library. The duplicate materials were deaccessioned; a list of the deaccessioned titles, complete with AJHS call numbers, is appended to the finding aid (p.14). The remaining publications are arranged chronologically in Series V.
Guide to the Papers of Isaiah Leo Kenen (1905-1988), undated, 1919-1985   *P-680
In Progress
Processed by Abigail H. Schoolman
© 2009
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States