Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Monda Halpern


The American Jewish Committee (AJC) was founded in 1906 by a group of elite Jewish communal leaders. In the historiography on the organization, the Committee’s earliest activities are described as limited to “quiet diplomacy,” involving the discreet lobbying of public officials. This dissertation challenges this account of the AJC’s early activism, arguing that, from its founding, the Committee was involved in more overt forms of public advocacy and was building the infrastructure to carry out the public advocacy work of modern special interest groups. While the AJC’s leaders continued to practice quiet diplomacy, they also released public statements, sponsored research, subsidized the publication of books, became involved in public interest litigation, and widely distributed pamphlets in an effort to influence public opinion. Using documents from the AJC’s archives, this dissertation presents a series of case studies of the organization’s earliest public advocacy work and describes its leaders’ deliberations about how to expand the Committee’s research and advocacy infrastructure and avert an intensification of anti-Semitism in the United States. The advocacy tactics the AJC employed were adaptations of techniques used by older European Jewish leadership organizations. The Committee’s leaders tailored these approaches according to their understanding of the threats the American Jewish community faced during the early-twentieth century. The activities of the Committee’s founders and early leaders shaped the AJC’s later, more conspicuous public advocacy on behalf of American Jewry and other minority communities in the United States.

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