The American Jewish Committee (AJC) The AJC was founded in 1906. The impetus for creating this organization was the news of the pogroms against Jews in the Russian Empire. The AJC’s mission was to “prevent infringement of the civil and religious rights of Jews and to alleviate the consequences of persecution,” no matter where they were occurring. The AJC is still going strong today, advocating for religious pluralism, Muslim-Jewish relations, and Jewish students on campus. One of the AJC’s most important areas of activism is in combating the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement.
The AJC is working to promote religious pluralism in Israel. In 2014, it created a the Jewish Religious Equality Coalition, a coalition of American Jews and Israelis dedicated to offering alternatives to dealing with the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. Currently, the Chief Rabbinate, which is Orthodox, has a monopoly on such issues as conversion, marriage, and divorce. American Jews overwhelmingly share a deep connection with the Jewish State but feel increasingly alienated from the religious coercion that exists there. Israel does not have civil marriage, and non-Orthodox conversions and marriages are not officially recognized. This jeopardizes American Jewish support for the special US – Israel relationship. The AJC will focus on reaching Israeli intellectuals, academics, thought leaders, and the media, so as to influence the broader public to support the cause.
One of AJC’s newest initiatives is the area of Muslim – Jewish Relations, aimed at deepening Muslim-Jewish understanding and engaging in constructive, cooperative interactions. In order to achieve this, AJC launched an Arabic language website. It co-sponsored a major national Muslim-Jewish conference in Detroit and has hosted sessions on interfaith dialogue with Muslim leaders at its Global Forum in Washington, D.C.
The advocacy of Jewish students on campus is one of the most important actions that AJC is taking. The 2014-15 school year saw a marked increase in anti-Israel activity and anti-Semitic incidents, including on elite campuses previously thought to be immune from such activity. AJC is implementing a master plan for enhancing the image of Israel on university campuses, combatting anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism on campus, and for combatting the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement on campuses. Some of the methods that the AJC uses to accomplish these goals are Project Interchange, reaching out to university administrators, board members, students, on-campus professionals, and prominent alumni, and legislative and legal action.
Some of the youngest and most vulnerable members of our community are being attacked by a well-organized and well-funded faction: the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement. It is imperative that the Jewish community steps in to defend these students. AJC is leading the way. It is working hard to leave them a world with better Muslim – Jewish relations and a more pluralistic State of Israel.