AJC Turns Towards Israel, Global Advocacy

Century-Old Group Plans To Shift From Domestic Issues

Changing Focus: The American Jewish Committee is moving away from research and domestic advocacy. Part of the plan involved phasing out its famed library.
getty images
Changing Focus: The American Jewish Committee is moving away from research and domestic advocacy. Part of the plan involved phasing out its famed library.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published December 17, 2012, issue of December 21, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

The century-old American Jewish Committee is cutting back on its domestic political agenda and on its research functions in favor of a focus on international advocacy.

That shift follows a strategic plan that the AJC approved in 2009. Though the changes at the AJC have been broadly noted, the content of the blueprint itself — which the AJC shared with and described to the Forward — was previously unreported.

Once known for its civil rights work, its scholarly conferences and its original research, the AJC has consolidated and reorganized its activities, trimming old programs in favor of global advocacy efforts, often in support of Israel. Old areas of interest, such as the church-state divide, are being set aside. Founded in 1906, the group faces diminishing financial resources and increased competition from newer Jewish organizations.

“There are some things that we’ve done and we do that are not core, and we have to cut down and train a laser focus on things we do uniquely and best,” said Victoria Schonfeld, the AJC’s chief operating officer, who was brought on to lead and implement the group’s strategic plan.

The realignment has led to some turmoil within the ranks of the legacy Jewish organization. “Just because some elder members and former leaders of the agency wish to see the agenda more in line with what it was years ago doesn’t mean that that’s the appropriate agenda for this day and age,” said E. Robert Goodkind, a former president and current board member of the AJC, defending the changes. “Every agency, just like human beings, has to evolve and change, and that’s what AJC is doing.”

The AJC’s strategic plan came at a time when other Jewish organizations of a similar vintage were struggling. The American Jewish Congress, founded in 1918 as an alternative to the AJC, closed in 2010, after the Bernard Madoff scandal. The Zionist Organization of America, founded in 1897, lost its tax-exempt status this year, amid a growing organizational crisis.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.