The American Jewish Congress was organized to provide a voice at Versailles for the Jews of Europe whose lives were disrupted by World War I, and to establish a mechanism for democratic decision-making for the Jewish community here at home. More than 350,000 Jews from throughout the U.S. selected delegates to attend the first American Jewish “Congress.” Among those elected were such giants as Rabbi Stephen S.Wise, Judge Louis Brandeis, Judge Felix Frankfurter, and Golda Meier Meyerson, then from Milwaukee. At that Congress, Wise set forth principles that were unique for the time and that continue to guide us today: that Jews are entitled not merely to charity, but to justice, and that there exist fundamental rights to which Jews and men and women of all faiths are entitled.
We were the first Jewish Defense Agency to:
Support the establishment of a Jewish state;
Boycott Nazi goods in the 1930s—over the objections of most other Jewish agencies;
Pioneer the use of the courts in the 1940s to defend Jewish rights—at a time when
others cautioned that Jews should not be outspoken. For that reason, and because
great jurists (including Justices Brandeis and Frankfurter) have been among our
founders and leaders, we are often called:
“The Attorney General for the Jewish People”
But we are much more than that . . .
We are outspoken advocates for the rights and interests of Jews here and abroad in the courts, the U.S. Congress, the Executive branch, state houses, and in foreign capitals throughout the world. With offices throughout the U.S. and overseas, we are an effective voice defending Jewish interests and advancing Jewish hopes, values, and aspirations.