Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations - excerpt from Lee O'Brien, American Jewish Organizations and Israel, 1986

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This page is an extract, reproduced with permission, from Lee O'Brien, American Jewish Organizations and Israel, Washington DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1986. [1]

  • Date established: 1959
  • Chairman: Kenneth J. Bialkin
  • Executive Vice-President: Yehuda Hellman
  • Address: 515 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10022
  • Publications: Annual Report, Middle East Memo

General Background and Structure

Efforts leading to the establishment of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, usually referred to as the Presidents Conference or simply the Conference, began in 1955. The now-accepted story, whether apocryphal or not, is that it arose as a direct result of the complaint of Undersecretary of State Henry Byroade that too many Jewish organizations were competing to get an audience with President Eisenhower to discuss the issue of Israel and U.S. policy toward the Middle East. Nahum Goldmann, who became the first chair of the conference, took the initiative in bringing together an ad hoc group of sixteen organizations, each represented by its president or director. The original organizations involved were:

Originally known as the Presidents Club, the Presidents Conference was formally established in 1959 with a headquarters, budget and staff. In 1966 the members voted to become a representative body of organizations rather than one of organization presidents. Today the Presidents Conference lists thirty-seven affiliated organizations; those who joined after the original sixteen are:

The AJC and CJF are both observers. The criteria for membership are that an organization be national in scope, have an independent budget, at least one staff member dealing with national affairs, and make its own policy independent of others.

The prestigious position of chairperson is filled approximately every two years, usually by the president of a constituent group who is nominated by an eight-member board and then elected by the rest. The current chair, elected in June 1984, is lawyer Kenneth J. Bialkin, who has been in the leadership of ADL for many years. Julius Berman, head of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, chaired the Conference from June 1982 until 1984. Berman, an Orthodox-ordained rabbi, was the first Orthodox leader ever to hold the position of Conference chair. The chairman for the preceding two years (June 1980-June 1982) was Howard Squadron of the AJCongress. Yehuda Hellman, a close friend of Nahum Goldmann, has held the paid position of executive vice-president since 1959. Richard Cohen is the public relations consultant for the Conference.

The Presidents Conference is supported mainly by dues and contributions from its member groups. The budget in the late 1970s was approximately $150,000 a year and reached $350,000 in 1982.


While AIPAC is the lobby of the pro-Israel community and is known for its clout and political maneuvering, the Presidents Conference could be termed the diplomatic branch. Its power is based on the claim to represent the consensus of its constituent organizations on questions relating to Israel and other international issues. This claim is unparalleled, as Conference head Julius Berman noted in an interview

‘I believe that the Presidents Conference is an unbelievable phenomenon in the history of the American Jewish community. We all realize that American Jews are the most over-organized entity in the world. Over-organized usually means disorganized, with everyone speaking for himself or herself. The ability of the various national organizations, now totaling 36, to come together and work out a consensus on a specific subject and to continue to work together on that issue, without in any way homogenizing the rest of the organizational world and covering up the numerous areas in which there might be disagreement, can be called a miracle of modern times. Over the years, slowly but surely, both within the American Jewish community and within the public at large, including the powers in Washington, a consensus has grown that the Presidents Conference reflects the position of the total American Jewish community. [2]

The original role of the Presidents Conference was to provide an internal forum for addressing issues related to Israel, and also act as an external voice, reflecting the consensus of American Jewish leaders. From this basic orientation there have developed several major interrelated functions: first, to interpret and convey the position of American Jewry to the U.S. government, policy makers, and media, to the Israeli government, and to other countries and international bodies; second, to interpret and convey the U.S. government and public's position to the Israeli government and the American Jewish community; and third, to present the Israeli position to the U.S. government, the American Jewish community, and the general public.

Thus it is in a very real sense that the Presidents Conference is often termed the foreign policy association of the American Jewish establishment. It is not a lobby, either legally or in practice, but it is more than simply an articulator of a consensus. It is simultaneously a concerned participant and an occasional mediator, a role that depends on maintaining a consensus and having close relations, and thus legitimacy, with those in power in the United States and Israel.

That the Presidents Conference has been granted this legitimacy is demonstrated by the numerous private meetings with and special access to high-ranking officials of both countries. Julius Berman was elected president of the Conference on 9 June 1982; though his term officially began on July 1, within twenty-four hours he was in the White House with a Conference delegation to meet with Vice President George Bush (President Reagan was in Europe at the Versailles Conference). According to its annual report for the year ending 31 March 1982, members of the Presidents Conference had meetings with Reagan, Bush, Secretary of State Haig, Secretary of Defense Weinberger, UN Representative Kirkpatrick, and National Security Advisor Richard Allen throughout the year. The contacts on the Israeli side are even closer. In addition to frequent visits to Israel, the Presidents Conference is routinely briefed by high-level Israeli diplomats in the United States and by visiting officials. When Menachem Begin came to the United States in 1981, one of his first acts was to meet privately in his hotel suite with members of the Conference. He then left for Washington for meetings with Reagan and other officials; on his return to New York he met again with the Presidents Conference to share the results of his talks. The Israelis also use the Conference as a conduit to the administration. In November 1981, a special Knesset delegation led by Moshe Arens and Chaim Herzog briefed the Presidents Conference on the Israeli position toward the Fahd peace plan; the very next day a Conference delegation met with Reagan and Bush to discuss the same Fahd plan. On 26 August 1982, Israeli defense minister Ariel Sharon met with the Conference and presented his assessment of the Lebanon war and the coming period. (He was introduced by Julius Berman as ‘the chief architect of Israel's great victory.’) In the late afternoon of the same day, a thirteen-member Presidents Conference delegation met with Secretary of State Shultz for two hours-to discuss U.S. Middle East policy following the war. Just one week later, representatives of the Conference held another long private meeting with Shultz, this time to discuss the Reagan plan. The Conference is also used as a public forum for messages; on 14 February 1984, Deputy Prime Minister David Levy used his speech to the Conference to criticize the United States strongly for not consulting sufficiently with Israel regarding the withdrawal of the Marines and the meetings with Egypt's President Mubarak and jordan's King Hussein. (The Conference was holding an annual meeting in Jerusalem.)

Other examples of the Presidents Conference role as the arbiter and/or diplomat of the American Jewish communities abound :

According to its annual report, the ‘1980 Presidential campaign catapulted the Presidents Conference onto the front pages of the nation's newspapers as each major candidate appeared before it to present his views and answer questions on critical foreign policy issues that American Jews would take into account as they cast their ballots.’ After each such meeting, Conference president Howard Squadron held a well-attended press conference. While not officially endorsing a candidate, after the meeting with the incumbent, Jimmy Carter, Squadron said, ‘I think that on some issues people left the room still concerned’; following the meeting with Reagan, Squadron noted that he had "said the right things."

After the July 1981 Israeli bombing of Beirut, U.S.-Israeli relations were strained, and the Conference was used to mend fences:

As the U.S.-Israeli relationship grew tense, Mr. Begin invited Howard Squadron and Yehuda Hellman to visit Jerusalem for a wide-ranging discussion of the situation. On their arrival in Jerusalem, Squadron and Hellman met with Prime Minister Begin for a thorough review of the state of American public opinion, with particular reference to Israel and the Middle East. In the stormy aftermath of the Beirut raid, Prime Minister Begin had come to recognize the extent and depth of negative U.S. public opinion. ‘A key figure in this process,’ said the New York Times in a review of events, ‘was Howard Squadron.’ [3]

Squadron worked on mediating the American side as well. He brought with him on the trip House Foreign Affairs Committee members Tom Lantos (D-Ca.) and Millicent Fenwick (R-N.J.), who also met with Begin. Outlining the Conference's task in the U.S., he said, ‘We'll have to work hard to persuade senators and congressmen that something very serious was going on in the north [Galilee] and the civilian casualties [in Beirut] are not only regretted, but not likely to happen again.’ [3]

In early July 1981, Squadron and Hellman visited West Germany and met with Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, whom they criticized for his position on the Middle East. They also held meetings with opposition leader Helmut Kohl, who used the meeting as a forum for pledging ‘to pursue a pro-Israel policy on assuming political leadership.’ After his election as chancellor, Kohl met again with the Presidents Conference during a 1982 visit to the United States and once more asserted his pro-Israel position and laid the groundwork for a state visit to Israel which took place in early 1984. [4]

In September 1983, a delegation from the Presidents Conference met one hour with Secretary of State Shultz and another hour with Richard Murphy, the newly appointed assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs. The major reason for the latter appointment was to allow the Conference to meet and approve Murphy, who had been ambassador to Saudi Arabia for the previous two years.

The Conference met with Secretary-General Waldheim at the UN and threatened to ‘pursue a campaign for cuts in American financial aid to the United Nations if that body continued on its present course.’ The Conference was also the first outside group that Jeane Kirkpatrick addressed following her appointment as permanent representative. In her speech she assured them that

‘As long as I am at the UN, Israel will never have to face her enemies alone.’

Political Position, Consensus and Dissent

The Presidents Conference role as official spokesman and statesman for the American Jewish community is based on its claim to speak for the unified position or consensus of its diverse constituency, which includes groups that differ politically and ideologically (Zionist or non-Zionist, religious or secular, liberal or conservative) and organizationally (fraternal, rabbinical, community relations). The success of the Conference in reaching consensus is helped by the fact that it need only address issues relating to Israel and international affairs, and that consensus is needed only for issues on which the Conference takes a position; theoretically, at least, if no consensus is reached, no position is taken.

There are now five points that have been put forward as the ‘bottom-line’ consensus of the Presidents Conference and thus of the American Jewish community as a whole. These were developed in June 1979, when Prime Minister Begin invited a Presidents Conference delegation to Israel to study the issue of the autonomy negotiations. The delegation met with Begin and other leaders, toured ‘Judea and Samaria’ by helicopter, and met with West Bank settlers. On the basis of the delegation's report, the Presidents Conference policy meeting reached the following statement of consensus, which continues to be cited to this day:

1. Israel's settlements on the West Bank are legal. 2. There must be no ‘Palestine state’ on the West Bank. Such a state would be a dagger pointed at the heart of Israel. 3. There must be no dealings with the PLO by the United States. 4. Jerusalem is indivisible. As the spiritual capital of the Jewish people, it must remain the political capital of Israel, a united city under Israeli sovereignty. 5. It is our conviction that Israel is committed to carrying out both the letter and spirit of the Camp David accords. This consensus has long been the unstated understanding of American Jewish friends of Israel. But it is well to publish it lest there be any miscalculation of the unity of American Jews and the strength of their commitment to the security and dignity of Israel and its people. [5]

Other positions taken by the Presidents Conference tend to mirror those of the Israeli government; there has been no deviation on any major issue. During the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, Howard Squadron held a press conference and called on President Reagan and the United States to support the invasion and its goals, and to reject any sanctions against Israel. In a statement issued on the first anniversary of the invasion, the Conference assessed it as ‘worth the cost.’ The Israeli position regarding the Reagan plan was also adopted by the Conference, albeit in milder tones. Julius Berman wrote a letter to Reagan stating that the plan

‘does violence to the spirit of Camp David in that it substitutes a specific American plan for the free give-and-take essential if the parties to the dispute are to solve their differences.’ [6]

In a Jerusalem press conference, held after a meeting with Begin, Berman went even further, accusing Reagan of reneging on his campaign promise to support a united Jerusalem. [7]

During the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the ensuing massacres in Palestinian camps, a generally more hidden aspect of the Presidents Conference role became apparent by the sheer weight of its diplomatic credentials, establishment leaders, and broadly-based membership: the Conference effectively maintains the important illusion of consensus rather than acting as a genuine vehicle for debate. The perception of a monolithic Jewish community, solidly united behind Zionist policy and the Jewish establishment, is essential to the legitimacy of both the Presidents Conference and the Israeli government.

In this instance, the Conference acted to defuse criticism of the Israeli role through articles, speakers, and press conferences. It also attempted to deny the existence of division in the Jewish community's ranks and to prevent open expression of dissent. Within days of the invasion, Chairman Berman met with Vice President Bush to express ‘the American Jewish community's understanding and support of Israel's incursion into Lebanon.’ When Begin visited the United States, the Conference organized a demonstration in support of the war. On 22 June, a small group from the Conference met with Defense Secretary Weinberger, where they again stressed that the community was ‘totally united’ in support of the war.The Conference also helped coordinate an 11 July New York Times ad entitled ‘An End of Terror-A Start Toward Peace,’ which was signed by 131 leaders of Jewish organizations, public officials, academics, and others, including present and past leaders of the Conference. (The ad was probably a response to statements and ads from Jews and others protesting the invasions.)

A similar scenario unfolded in reaction to the Sabra and Shatila massacre. In a Middle East Memo entitled ‘Tragedy and Truth-The Beirut Massacre,’ the Conference deplored the killings, but went on to assert that only a Moslem-Christian ‘blood feud’ was responsible, to praise Israeli democracy, criticize the PLO, denounce the international double standard and hypocrisy against Israel, and attack the Arab regimes for intransigence. Regarding the position of American Jews, the memo stated

Until there is peace, Israel must act to defend itself. American Jews understand this reality. We accept what Israel must do in order to survive. Therefore there will be no ‘split’, no ‘rift’, no ‘erosion’ of the love and support we give to Israel.

To ensure that the broader public was reached, Berman held a press conference in Jerusalem on 6 October, following a private meeting with Begin, where he again denied that there was any split in the American Jewish community over Israel's policies. [7] The Presidents Conference also adheres to the position adopted by virtually all Jewish establishment organizations: any dissenting view or criticism must be expressed privately; it is unacceptable, even treacherous, to disturb or challenge publicly the image of unity. The Conference's structure facilitates this practice. For one thing, its membership is the entrenched leadership of established organizations, who generally share the same interests, and thus the consensus. (They also decide which other groups are eligible to join.) In addition, because of the Conference's dual role as internal forum and public representative, any expression of dissent is limited, by mandate, to the internal forum and thus has no possible public outlet or expression, since official (public) statements must represent consensus. Rabbi Balfour Brickner wrote to Julius Berman:

Much publicity has been given to the Jan. 26, 1983 conference which the Presidents Conference is convening to discuss relations between the United States Jewish community and Israel. Some have even suggested that this meeting would also explore the matter of ‘dissent’ within the American Jewish community. That must be an erroneous report since none of the better-known ‘dissenting types’ seem to have been invited.

At least none are publicized as being panelists at the advertised discussion. Certainly, no one would accuse Rabbi Glazer or Dr. Sidorsky of being ‘dissenters’ from the ‘establishment view.’ They both have distinguished reputations as being strong supporters of the present Israel government's policies. Dr. Thurz may have reservations about those policies. If so, his views are not as yet well known.

I would hope that the Presidents Conference would, indeed, consider convening a Consultation on Dissent, one that would be open, not closed, one to which the Jewish press would be invited, one at which spokespeople from the various positions in the ever-broadening spectrum of American Jewish public opinion would be invited, one where, for at least a first time, we could honestly, as Arthur Hertzberg likes to say, ‘break a lance or two.’

I am certain that the Presidents Conference is not afraid openly to debate with Jews not in the Presidents Conference some of the issues which now tear at the seam of American Jewry's cloak. Such dialogue would not only be interesting, it might also prove to be important and as informative as I am sure your closed session with Glazer, Sidorsky and Thurz will be. I notice that Ken Bialkin will be summarizing the findings. Will, at least, that summary be shared with members of the organizations whose ‘leaders’ will be attending the closed session, or will they have to rely on a report from their presidents? [8]

Brickner has also publicly criticized the Presidents Conference role in stifling dissent. In March 1983, he led a contingent of eighteen rabbis to Washington. They met with twenty senators and representatives to assert that there are Jews who do not share establishment views and who, in particular, ‘do not support the Israel Government on policies in the West Bank; call for a freeze on new Israeli settlements in the West Bank; call for all avenues to be explored to involve Palestinians in negotiations.’ Brickner said it was the ‘closed door’ policy of the Conference that led to the delegation's actions and noted that they had no alternative within the Jewish establishment

‘none of these views are aired publicly by prestigious establishment groups such as the Presidents Conference, AIPAC and organizations with massive memberships like Hadassah for one. Groups that make periodic pilgrimages to Washington to make their views known at no point give those holding alternative views a chance to be heard and quoted.’ [9]

The White House, the Presidents Conference, and Republican Jews

The system that makes access to the White House and, to a lesser degree, the State Department the prerogative of the Presidents Conference has generally been accepted because it is clear to all concerned that unity is strength and that one voice is more likely to achieve sustained access to the White House than scores of individual pro-Israel groups. But at the same time, the Jewish community (or communities), with its proliferation of organizations and duplication of tasks, has long rejected any overall control or hierarchy. It seems likely that the traditional Jewish establishment maintains the Presidents Conference as official representative for several reasons. First, there is more consensus regarding Israel than any other issue, and it is in the interest of all to protect this-including the

U.S. and Israeli governments. Second, the Conference is not threatening: its power is not inherent, but stems from the complicity of and legitimacy granted by the other groups involved. It exerts no control over the constituent organizations, who continue their own work, programs, and meetings with politicians (including the U.S. president). Finally, the position of chairman-which brings with it the most perks, publicity, and meetings with heads of state-is carefully allocated among the various members. While the Conference is not and never has been the White House's sole access to American Jews, it is expedient to be able to emerge from a meeting and announce ‘The Jewish community thinks this about Israel.’ If by some chance there are disagreements, other organizations and avenues can always be approached. This convenient scenario received its most serious challenge with the coming of Ronald Reagan and his administration. As Wolf Blitzer wrote in the Jerusalem Post, ‘Since President Reagan took office, relations between the White House and the Presidents Conference have been strained. Administration officials regard the group as fundamentally Democratic in its orientation and, therefore, automatically hostile to the president.’ [10]

In the opinion of some Jewish groups, including the Presidents Conference, Reagan is guilty of overlooking, and thus undermining, the Conference and turning instead to a group of wealthy Republican Jews, most of whom were active in the Jewish Coalition for Reagan-Bush during the 1980 campaign. First among them is Albert Spiegel of Los Angeles, a personal friend of Reagan and chair of the Coalition. According to the Jerusalem Post, ‘More than anyone else in the Republican Jewish leadership, Spiegel has access, clout and credibility in the White House.’ [11] (Spiegel is a businessman who has long been active in the Los Angeles B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundation and the Joint Distribution Committee.)

Another close Jewish friend of Reagan is Ted Cummings, also a Los Angeles businessman and Republican; he was an honorary co-chair of the Coalition and became ambassador to Austria after the election. The other most well-known and active Jewish Republican is Detroit businessman Max Fisher, who was close to the Nixon and Ford administrations. He, too, was an honorary co-chair of the Republican National Jewish Coalition, and a member of the board of governors of the Jewish Agency. Other prominent and active Jewish Republicans include Gordon Zacks of Columbus, Ohio, Richard Fox of Philadelphia, and George Klein of New York. Virtually all of them are large contributors to AIPAC and pro-Israel PACs as well. The institutional framework within which these men operate is the National Republican Jewish Coalition, of which Richard Fox was elected chair in June 1983 and Max Fisher is honorary chair. According to Fox, a role of the Coalition is to act as a ‘sounding board’ between the Reagan administration and the Jewish community. [12]

Since the degree of access to high officials, especially the President, constitutes the basis of an organization's or. individual's power and credibility, the Presidents Conference quickly responded to the threat posed by Spiegel and others. The Presidents Conference annual report for the year ending 31 March 1981 contains the statement that:

The question of the role of the Coalition's members in representations to the White House had been resolved by a unanimous vote of the Presidents Conference declaring that Jewish community discipline demanded that only the democratically constituted voice of the Jewish community be entrusted with the task of dealing with the incoming administration-not any self-appointed group of political supporters of the President, no matter how distinguished its individual members might be.

While this statement sounds definitive, in fact it appears in brackets after reference to Squadron and Hellman's first meeting with Alexander Haig, which was also attended by Max Fisher. Since most of the Presidents Conference's meetings with high administration officials since the Reagan election have been attended by Spiegel, Fisher, or other Republican Jews, it seems that there was a quiet compromise to share access. The Presidents Conference, which maintains its role as public representative, tolerates Reagan's private meetings with the Republican Jewish group as partisan necessities.

This compromise temporarily exploded in 1982. The spark was an April 1982 meeting with Reagan attended by Spiegel, Fisher, Zacks, Fox, Klein, and Larry Weinberg, a Democrat and former AIPAC president. It was the participation of Weinberg to which the Presidents Conference most objected: first, he was a staunch Democrat, so there could be no excuse that this was a private, partisan meeting; and second, his attendance fueled the existing competition between AIPAC and the Conference. This was due to AIPAC's ever-growing clout and prestige, exacerbated in this instance by what was seen as a violation of AIPAC's mandate to focus on Congress and leave the executive branch to the Conference. The fact that Spiegel, who organized the meeting, chose to invite Weinberg but not Squadron (then head of the Conference) was a blow. Squadron responded with a public statement criticizing the visit, which read in part:

The American Jewish community is past the point where we need or want ‘court Jews’ to speak for us to our government. The members of this self-appointed group-all but one of them active Republicans-were not authorized by the Jewish community to address the President. Such meetings do not help Israel and do not advance the cause of Jewish dignity and self-respect. From the beginning of this Administration, an effort has been made to bypass the Presidents Conference so that the White House could designate its own ‘Jewish leaders.’ The effort was vigorously rejected by the organized Jewish community on the grounds that it is not up to the President to select the Jews who represent the Jewish community. It is up to the Jewish community itself. [13]

The statement was widely covered in the American Jewish and Israeli press-all of whom deplored the fact that it was made public. Compromise once again became the order of the day, as all concerned recognized the importance of preserving at least the appearance of unity. When Julius Berman became head of the Presidents Conference, one of his pledges was to improve relations with AIPAC and Republican Jews. In turn, the Coalition has stated publicly that it does not have exclusive representation of Jewish community interests. However, the individual Republican Jews whom Reagan favors still seem to be in ascendancy. Spiegel has proposed that he coordinate White House access; subsequent meetings with Reagan, though often publicly announced as headed by the Presidents Conference, invariably include Spiegel or members of the Republican Coalition.

The importance and impact of this conflict within the American Jewish establishment is difficult to assess. It is certainly connected to the shift in Israel support work away from the more old-fashioned, behind the-scenes methods of the Presidents Conference toward the more modern and aggressive policies of AIPAC and the PACs, which do not hesitate to intervene directly and openly in political affairs. More generally, this conflict also reflects the deeper chasm evidenced by the neoconservative direction of certain sectors of American Jewry, and the inevitable clash with the traditional support of the Democratic party and the at least symbolic liberalism such allegiance still represents.

Other Activities

While the main role of the Presidents Conference is that of public spokesman, it also engages in more pragmatic work, along the same lines as other pro-Israel organizations.

The Conference occasionally initiates national campaigns on specific themes or issues. In 1979, in the middle of the Andrew Young-PLO affair, the following announcement was sent to ‘every Jewish communal leader and publication throughout the country’:

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations has undertaken a national campaign urging the United States Jewish community to make known to the White House our deepening concern about the current trend of American Middle East policy. The themes of this campaign are: No appeasement of PLO terror. No surrender to Arab blackmail. [5]

In its annual report, the Conference described its own activities in the campaign: on 9 September, Conference president Theodore Mann published a letter entitled ‘America's Case Against the PLO’ in the New York Times; the letter was reprinted by the Conference as a Middle East Memo and ‘disseminated widely.’ Mann was interviewed in US News and World Report; on 12 September, Mann held a press conference where he made public a 30 August letter from Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, reasserting the U.S. commitment to Israel; the next day the Daily News interviewed Mann. On 25 September, a Middle East Memo about the PLO was released. In March 1982, the Conference launched another nationwide information campaign, this time ‘to deepen American appreciation of the significance of Israel's withdrawal from Sinai and to protest Administration policies that could damage the Middle East peace process and imperil U.S. strategic interests in the region.’ [7] This campaign culminated in a National Leadership Conference of Solidarity with Israel, held in a Washington, D.C. synagogue. The conference was addressed by Senators Robert Byrd, Henry Jackson, and David Durenberger.

The Presidents Conference also sponsors demonstrations. The best known one was the Rally Against Arab Terror, held to protest Yasir Arafat speech at the United Nations in 1974. Julius Berman has claimed, ‘When necessary, we can get out a major demonstration in 48 hours.’ [14] During the June 1982 invasion of Lebanon, the Conference called for a pro-Israel demonstration when Menachem Begin addressed the UN General Assembly. The demonstration was coordinated with NJCRAC and the local New York Jewish Community Relations Council; according to their figures, three thousand people attended.

Like other pro-Israel groups, the Conference places newspaper advertisements. On the occasion of a Begin visit to the United States in early September 1981, the Conference (together with the UJA, Israel Bonds, and others) placed an ad that read: Deeply committed to the well-being and dignity of Israel's people, we extend a heart-felt welcome to Prime Minister Begin. We join in fervent prayer for the cause of peace that brings you to our shores. [7]

On 25 April 1982, to salute the Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai, the Conference placed a New York Times ad entitled ‘Betting Their Lives on Peace.’ In a more unusual action, the Conference placed a full-page New York Times ad-at a cost of $23,362-after an Israeli airline EI Al strike ended in 1982. It read, ‘EI AI-We Missed You!’

Press conferences are a frequent activity of the Presidents Conference and generally receive wide coverage. In addition to the annual National Leadership Conference, the Conference also holds the smaller banquets and conferences at which leading U.S. and Israeli figures are speakers or honored guests.

Its publications are Annual Report, which summarizes the activities and political developments of each year (from April to March), and the one or two-page Middle East Memo, which provides statements or essays on topical events. Typical brochures include ‘America's National Interest in the Middle East’, ‘PLO-The Nazis of Our Day’, ‘The Arab Claim to Palestine-An Analysis’, and ‘The Jewish People's Historic Rights in the Land of Israel’ Press relations kits with feature stories and photographs on Israel are distributed to newspapers and other media around the country.


  1. This page is reproduced by permission of the Institute of Palestine Studies, granted on 25 February 2014. The Institute retains copyright of all material.
  2. Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 30 June 1982
  3. 3.0 3.1 Report, for year ending 31 March 1982
  4. Jewish Week, 19 November 1982
  5. 5.0 5.1 Report, for year ending 31 March 1980
  6. Jerusalem Post, 8 September 1982
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 6 October 1982
  8. Letter published in The Jewish Post and Opinion, 9 February 1983
  9. The Jewish Post and Opinion, 23 March 1983
  10. Jerusalem Post, 7 June 1982
  11. Jerusalem Post, 21 January 1982
  12. Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 21 June 1983
  13. Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 14 April 1982
  14. Jewish Week, 11 July 1982