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

(page 2 of 4)

David Harris, the AJC’s executive director, has shaped and led the group since he took his post, in 1990. Writing and speaking publicly, he is undoubtedly the face of the AJC. His influence and interests have been broadly felt throughout the organization. The roadmap, however, was not Harris’s alone. That process was led by Schonfeld, who was hired explicitly to head up the effort.

When Schonfeld arrived, the AJC was facing some disarray. Schonfeld said that the AJC lacked information technology capabilities and key staff positions, such as a head of human resources.

“The AJC had grown very quickly and hasn’t had time to focus on its infrastructure,” Schonfeld said.

When Schonfeld came on, in June 2007, AJC was in the midst of a financial boon. The group reported $123 million in assets with $53 million in contributions during the fiscal year that ended in mid-2007.

When she first arrived, Schonfeld said, the question was, “Where do we expand?”

By 2010, the group brought in just $38 million in contributions. Net assets were down to $99 million. The change in the organization’s fiscal situation became clear only partway through the strategic planning process, Schonfeld said.

The AJC’s board adopted the new plan in 2009. The plan identifies two core focus areas for the group: advocating with governments, and intergroup relations.

Intergroup relations refers to coalition building with other religious groups and other ethnic groups, according to Schonfeld, who referenced recent AJC outreach to Latinos as an example of this work.

But it’s the government advocacy, and particularly advocacy with foreign governments, that’s now clearly at the forefront of the AJC’s activities. Schonfeld said that the staff dedicated to global advocacy in the AJC’s national office is far bigger than the staff dedicated to intergroup relations. “It’s what we do more uniquely than anyone else,” Schonfeld said. “We have what we think is a unique style, which isn’t just marching in and pounding the table and saying you must listen to us; rather, our advocacy is building on long-standing relationships of trust.”


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!
  • Israelis are taking up the #IceBucketChallenge — with hummus.
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • 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.