JTA reports that after losing 90% of its $24 million endowment in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme the American Jewish Congress suspended its operations last month. AJ Congress was one of the three largest (and New York headquartered) American-Jewish organizations devoted to fighting anti-semitism; the remaining two are the American Jewish Committeeand the Anti-Defamation League. AJ Congress was founded 91 years ago as a more outspoken and inclusive alternative to the patrician AJ Committee whose leaders were German-Jewish-American millionaires who made their fortunes in the middle of the 19th Century and preferred to exert influence quietly behind the scenes; in recent years AJ Committee has functioned as a neo-conservative think tank. Ironically the insolvent AJ Congress is now rumored to be in talks to merge with AJ Committee. For its part the ADLhas recently appeared to violate it very mission to fight bigotry by joining the opposition to a Muslim community center in lower Manhattan.
In contrast to the politically conservative AJ Committee and the reactive ADL, AJ Congress was less ideological, worked to strengthen the role of women in Jewish-American and American life in general, had more women in leadership positions than most other Jewish-American organizations, and was a strong advocate for church-state separation, which American Jewry’s liberal majority supports. Based on its positions on these and other issuesHadassah (which I mentioned in my December 2009 Tsedakah article, which now accepts men as “associates,” and which has also been financially weakened by the Madoff Ponzi scheme) might be a better fit for AJ Congress supporters than AJ Committee.
This article first appeared in the late examiner.com