American Jewish Congress member holds sign at Montgomery March, 1965.
Photograph, American Jewish Historical Society, 1965. Source.
by Anna Khomina, Research and Special Projects Intern, Center for Jewish History
In 1918, the American Jewish Congress was established by several prominent Jewish leaders, including rabbi Stephen S. Wise, Hadassah founder Henrietta Szold, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, in order to ease and prevent Jewish suffering in the wake of World War I. In 1957, at the behest of Martin Luther King Jr., AJC president Israel Goldstein spoke at a meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, condemning the recent bombings of four black churches in Montgomery, Alabama. This cemented the relationship between the AJC and King, and the organization would participate in civil rights protests, boycotts, and marches. In 1963, then AJC president Joachim Prinz was one of the organizing chairmen of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, speaking shortly before King came on stage to make his famous “I Have a Dream" speech.
In 1958, King celebrated the alliance between the civil rights and Jewish community, proclaiming at an AJC conference, "My people were brought to America in chains. Your people were driven here to escape the chains fashioned for them in Europe. our unity is born of our common struggle for centuries, not only to rid ourselves of bondage, but to make oppression of any people by others an impossibility."