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Records of the Jewish Defense League

 Collection
Identifier: I-374

Scope and Content Note

The collection reflects the activism on behalf of the Soviet Jewry and other activities of the Jewish Defense League, a militant Zionist organization with a stated goal to protect Jews from all forms of antisemitism. The documents in this collection also cover the 1971 World Conference of Jewish Communities and include criticism of the JDL from a variety of sources. The documents include the Articles of the Organization, correspondence and press releases, membership and recruitment materials, newsletters, newspaper clippings and ephemera. The following publications are also included in the collection: The Jewish Defender, ITON, and the JDL Letter.

Dates

  • undated, 1969-1974, 1985-1986

Creator

Language of Materials

The collection is in English.

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, N.Y., 10011 email: reference@ajhs.org

Historical Note

The records of the Jewish Defense League represent one collection housed within the Archive of the American Soviet Jewry Movement (AASJM). These papers reflect the effort, beginning in the 1960s through the late 1980s, of thousands of American Jews of all denominations and political orientations to stop the persecution and discrimination of Jews in the Soviet Union. The American Soviet Jewry Movement (ASJM) is considered to be the most influential Movement of the American Jewish community in the 20th century. The beginnings of the organized American Soviet Jewry Movement became a model for efforts to aid Soviet Jews in other countries, among them Great Britain, Canada, and France. The movement can be traced to the early 1960s, when the first organizations were created to address the specific problem of the persecution and isolation of Soviet Jews by the government of the Soviet Union.

The Jewish Defense League was founded in 1968 by Rabbi Meir Kahane, Bertram Zeweibon, Morton Delinsky, Irving Calderon, and Chaim Bieber, as an Orthodox Jewish organization with the mission to combat inner city crime, Antisemitism, and the decline in the quality of Jewish life employing direct, often militant, tactics. The JDL also became one of the pioneer organizations in the American Soviet Jewry movement. It advocated Jewish interests in African-American/Jewish relations and in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, and promoted Aliyah Zionism and opposed the assimilation of Jews outside of Israel. The JDL philosophy included restoring Jews to their ancient values and the expulsion of the Arab population from Israel. By 1970, the JDL was an ultra-nationalist militant youth movement composed of urban, suburban, student and working-class Jews. The Soviet Jewry movement gave the JDL national prominence and wide support, transforming it from a small vigilante group to an organization up to 15,000 members strong. The controversial methods of the JDL earned it a reputation of a terrorist and racist organization among the mainstream Jewish agencies and U.S. law enforcement agencies. Members of the JDL conducted bombings of Soviet and Arab properties in the United States. A series of threats and violent attacks were directed at individuals and organizations that the JDL perceived as antisemitic and dangerous to the Jewish people. The Anti-Defamation League characterized the JDL's ideology as racist, violent, and extreme, and multiple instances of JDL activity were officially classified as terrorist attacks by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Ultimately, the FBI characterized the Jewish Defense League as a violent and extremist organization.

References

Anti-Defamation League Backgrounder:The Jewish Defense League. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.adl.org/extremism/jdl_chron.asp

Article of Organization, 1970, Jewish Defense League, Records, I-374, Box 1/Folder 1, Collection of the American Jewish Historical Society, Boston, MA and New York, NY.

Kahane, L. (2008). Rabbi Meir Kahane: His life and thought. Jerusalem: Urim Publications.

Extent

0.5 Linear Feet (1 manuscript box)

Abstract

The collection contains the records of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), a militant Zionist organization with a stated goal to protect Jews from all forms of antisemitism. The materials document the origins of the JDL, the organization's mission statement and recruitment strategies and account for its most definitive actions. The collection also reflects the League's turbulent relationship with, and its criticism of the mainstream Jewish agencies, as well as examples of criticism of the League's controversial methods from various sources. The collection prominently covers the JDL's role as a pioneer of the American Soviet Jewry movement. Materials on the 1971 World Conference of Jewish Communities are also included. The documents include the Articles of the Organization, correspondence and press releases, membership and recruitment materials, newsletters, newspaper clippings and ephemera.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged into a single series.

Related Material

The American Jewish Historical Society archives contain the Records of the Jewish Defense Organization, founded in 1981 by Mordechai Levy, a former member of the Jewish Defense League following his conflict with the JDL’s leadership.

AJHS and YIVO libraries contain a number of publications related to the Jewish Defense League and Meir Kahane.

The Records of the Jewish Defense League is one individual collection within the Archive of the American Soviet Jewry Movement (AASJM) located at the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS). Other Soviet Jewry Movement collections at AJHS include the records of Action for Soviet Jewry (I-487), the National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ; I-181 and I-181A), the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews (I-410, I-410A), Houston Action for Soviet Jewry (I-500), Bay Area Council for Soviet Jews (I-505), Seattle Action for Soviet Jewry (I-507), The Jewish Chronicle Soviet Jewry Collection (I-523), B'nai B'rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum Soviet Jewry Movement Collection (I-529), Chicago Action for Soviet Jewry (I-530), the papers of Joel Ackerman (P-787), Julia Mates Cheney (P-806), Jerry Goodman (P-863), Laurel and Alan J. Gould (P-866), Carolyn W. Sanger (P-870), Leah Lieberman (P-869), Si Frumkin (P-871), Elaine Pittell (P-873), Sanford A. Gradinger (P-880), Shaul Osadchey (P-882), Leonard S. Cahan (P-883), Doris H. Goldstein (P-887), David H. Hill (P-888), Margery Sanford (P-889), Pinchas Mordechai Teitz (P-891), David Waksberg (P-895), Pamela B. Cohen (P-897), Moshe Decter (P-899), William Korey (P-903), Morey Schapira (P-906), Charlotte Gerper Turner (P-907), Myrtle Sitowitz (P-908), Kathleen M. Hyman (P-911), Babette Wampold (P-912), Rabbi David Goldstein and Shannie Goldstein (P-918), Leslie Schaffer (P-923), Arthur Bernstein (P-925), Dolores Wilkenfeld (P-927), Sylvia Weinberg (P-928) , Irwin H. Krasna (P-934) , Constance S. Kreshtool (P-935), Grace Perlbinder (P-942), Mort Yadin (P-943), Ann Polunsky (P-886), Lillian Foreman (P-945), Marilyn Labendz(P-946), Abraham Silverstein(P-947) and Bert Silver(P-949).

Additional materials on the American Soviet Jewry movement from other collections include records dealing with the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry (SSSJ) located within the North American Jewish Students Appeal (NAJSA, I-338) and the records of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC, I-172). Related records are also located at the AJHS in Newton Centre, MA including memorabilia and ephemera of the New England Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry (I-237) and the Records of the Student Coalition for Soviet Jewry – Brandeis University (I-493).

Creator

Title
Guide to the Records of the Jewish Defense League, undated, 1969-1974, 1985-1986 *I-374
Status
In Progress
Author
Processed by Andrey Filimonov
Date
© 2013
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