Records of the Jewish Defense League
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.
- undated, 1969-1974, 1985-1986
- Jewish Defense League (Organization)
Language of Materials
The collection is in English.
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.
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: email@example.com
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.
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.
0.5 Linear Feet (1 manuscript box)
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.
The collection is arranged into a single series.
- Anti-defamation League
- Clippings (information artifacts)
- Emigration and immigration
- Human rights
- Jewish Defense League
- Jewish radicals
- Jews -- Soviet Union -- Politics and government
- Jews, Soviet
- Kahane, Meir
- Political violence
- Press releases
- Soviet Union
- United States
- Guide to the Records of the Jewish Defense League, undated, 1969-1974, 1985-1986 *I-374
- Processed by Andrey Filimonov
- © 2013
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Description is in English.