<h3>The Dubious Friends of New Jewish Agenda
Jews, Marxism and the Worker's Movement

Sid Resnick

The Dubious Friends of New Jewish Agenda

First Published: Morning Freiheit, July 7, 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The New Jewish Agenda, the progressive and activist Jewish organization that was founded in 1980, has been the object of much attention by a number of Jews in the Communist Party. Their interest may be tactical but it is also quite hypocritical. The Communist Party’s position on die Jewish question which has been shaped to conform to that of the Soviet Communist Party and the Moscow Anti-Zionist Committee goes off in a completely different direction from Agenda’s position.

Yet an editorial in the Communist magazine Jewish Affairs (March-April 1985) lauded Agenda as follows:

“Dedicated to the aspirations of humanity for a world of peace and plenty and free of racism and anti-Semitism, New Jewish Agenda is increasing its chapters throughout the land and has won the respect of the responsible leaders and many adherents of the established Jewish American organizations.”

This is true, fortunately, but it is odd praise coming from a party which is the predictably obedient defender of the Soviet government that would never tolerate the existence of an organization such as Agenda. One need only read Agenda’s National Platform and compare it with current Soviet policy and practice in regard to Jews to be convinced of this.


The New Jewish Agenda’s National Platform which it adopted in November 1982 declared in part: “We are Jews from a variety of backgrounds and affiliations committed to progressive human values and the shared vision of Jewish life. . . We are dedicated to insuring the survival and flourishing of the Jewish people. Jews must have the rights to which all people are entitled... We need creative and vital Jewish institutions and practices that affirm the best of our traditions... To those whose visions differ from ours – let us discuss those differences. Authentic Jewish unity grows from respect for and understanding of diversity. . .

“Our histories, traditions, values and sentiments have created a connection between us and the Jewish State of Israel. We believe that the fate of the Jewish people in one part of the world is linked to the fate of the Jewish people in other parts of the world.. .”

On the Soviet Union the Agenda Platform pointedly stated:

“New Jewish Agenda firmly supports the struggle of the Soviet Jews to achieve basic cultural, religious and human rights as Jews. We support all attempts to allow Jews who choose to emigrate to other countries to do so freely... The Soviet government must honor the international right to freedom of movement and must implement its stated guarantees of cultural and civil rights to Jews, other minority peoples and all its citizens.”


From the viewpoint of the official Soviet ideology everything quoted above from the Agenda Platform is plain heresy, Jewish bourgeois nationalism, Zionism or worse. If teaching Hebrew to children is a criminal offense in the Soviet Union, anyone advocating Agenda-type views would be in deep trouble.

Members of the Moscow Anti-Zionist Committee of the Soviet Public have on several occasions clamorously denounced the idea that any Soviet Jews wish to emigrate or that Soviet Jews still have to achieve “basic cultural, religious and human rights as Jews,” which Agenda contends. Other apparatchiks reject the notion of the “survival and flourishing of the Jewish people” which Agenda upholds. They see this is an obstacle to their goal of the assimilation and disappearance of the small peoples in the Soviet Union and their “merging” into the Russian people. Several spokesmen of the Moscow Anti-Zionist Committee have approved anti-Zionist propaganda pamphlets even though they are filled with anti-Semitic allusions that distress Soviet Jews.

It would be one thing if the American Communist Jews would disagree, as they ought to, with these erroneous Soviet policies that have such negative effects on Soviet Jews. Instead, the very same people who make a point of supporting the Moscow Anti-Zionist Committee also claim to be pleased with the New Jewish Agenda program though it is completely at odds with the Soviet position. How can anyone believe them?


Communists misrepresent Agenda’s activities even as they praise the organization. The party’s magazine, Jewish Affairs (March-April 1985) carried an article by Jon Weisberger entitled, “New Jewish Agenda Looks to the Future,” which follows the Soviet line of not saying anything good about any Zionist. Mr. Weisberger writes: “In its lobbying efforts, as well as joint tours by Israeli and Palestinian peace activists, Agenda has demonstrated a commendable commitment to a genuine, lasting peace in the Middle East and helped to break the attempted stranglehold of Zionist and chauvinist forces on the Jewish community.”

Agenda has, indeed, arranged many tours of Israeli and Palestinian peace activists in American Jewish communities. What Weisberger failed to acknowledge is that most of these Israeli peace activists are Zionists themselves and that quite a few Jewish leaders who are Zionists came to hear them in synagogues, Jewish Community Federations and other forums. What ought to have been seen by Mr. Weisberger as a positive development was deliberately ignored by him because the Soviet position is that all Zionists without exception are racists, nazi collaborators, eta, and are never to be mentioned favorably. Thus Agenda’s aim of bringing Zionists and non-Zionists together to help change Israeli government policy is downplayed in a Communist’s report for specious political reasons.

What is even more deplorable is the effort of Communists to turn Agenda to a more leftist path congenial to them. For example, Mr. Weisberger faults Agenda for not having officially endorsed and circulated a petition calling for an international peace conference on the Middle East. One of the reasons he gives for Agenda to endorse this petition is that it is sponsored by the “Israeli Democratic Front for Peace and Equality.” It is well known that the Democratic Front is the creation of the Israeli Communist Party, (RAKACH) and it is the electoral front of that party. It would be absolute foolishness for Agenda to undermine its broad appeal within the American Jewish community by lining itself up with the Israeli Communist Party which promotes the Soviet line of a “nazi-zionist criminal alliance” during the Second World War that has deeply offended most Jews.

Agenda is also harmed by articles such as Weisberger’s in an official Communist Party publication when it is filled with unasked for advice couched in such terms as: “Agenda must also reaffirm. . . We are confident NJA will undertake. . . Agenda can play a major role. NJA can move even deeper. . . What remains now is for the organization to develop a concrete program of action. . . NJA must move... This situation needs to be corrected, especially by developing a higher level of activity... ”etc., etc.

It is, in fact, this proprietary tone and endless giving of advice to Agenda by Communists in their official publications that create the erroneous impression that Agenda is a narrow leftist organization or may be another one of the Communist Party’s front organizations. This cynical tactic of the Communists can only cause additional difficulty to Agenda.

One of the attractive features of Agenda is the broad coalition approach it has developed. Agenda members have shown much skill in meeting and working with Jewish community leaders on various projects and in bringing Zionists and non-Zionists together to promote a just settlement of the Arab-Israel conflict.

The style of work and the objectives of New Jewish Agenda are altogether different from those of the Communist Party and its intrusion into Agenda’s affairs is a definite disservice to this promising Jewish organization. Here is a situation in which one must urge the Communists, “Hands-off.”

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The writer of this article is a member of the New Haven Chapter of New Jewish Agenda.