The Declining Fortunes of AJCongress

James Besser writing in The Jewish Week:

Will Marc Stern’s move doom the American Jewish Congress?

Coming back from an Internet-free vacation, I learned that Marc Stern, the longtime legal guru of of the American Jewish Congress, has signed on to serve as associate general counsel for legal activity of the American Jewish Committee.

That should put a conclusive end to speculation about a merger between the two groups whose similar names have given generations of Jewish journalists fits, for the simple reason that with Stern’s defection, the AJ Congress has absolutely nothing the American Jewish Committee could possibly want.

… Much has been and will be written about the reasons for the AJ Congress’ demise. No doubt there were many reasons, including Bernie Madoff, who tanked its endowment.

But the biggest reason, in my book, was that the group lost sight of its core mission.

Once the AJ Congress was the very epicenter of progressive Jewish activism. It was an early leader on church-state law, on women’s equality, on poverty and social justice, but a succession of leaders, for good reasons and bad, decided to make it just another organization criticizing Israel’s critics and “fighting” anti-Semitism by issuing press releases and reports.

The AJ Congress lost its base, and its message got lost in the static of countless Jewish organizations trying to do and say the same things. (emphasis eJP)