Local AJCongress chapter incorporates as new non-profit

The St. Louis Region of the American Jewish Congress’ Board of Directors has voted to incorporate a new non-profit agency, the Midwest Jewish Congress, which will continue all of the existing programs of the AJCongress St. Louis Region, according to attorney Jay Umansky, president of the region.

“After over two years of attempting to resolve our concerns over the direction of the national leadership of the American Jewish Congress, we have decided to incorporate a new entity,” Umansky said. 

As reported in recent articles in the New York Jewish Week and the St. Louis Jewish Light, the local AJCongress regional board was concerned that the historically broad-based American Jewish Congress had reorganized in such a way as to concentrate authority within a small, reconstituted national board. The local region’s board found the change placed control of the national organization in the hands of a few individuals. 

AJCongress was founded in 1918 by Jewish leaders from around the nation, including Rabbi Stephen S. Wise and Justice Louis D. Brandeis.  The national organization suspended activities and laid off the bulk of its staff in July, 2010 after losing most of its assets — $21 million of a total of $23 million, according to a JTA report at the time — due to the Bernard Madoff scandal in 2008.

Founded in 1947, the St. Louis Chapter and Region of AJCongress plans to continue its participation in the Jewish Community Relations Council and continue its current local programs, according to Umansky. Those include, among others, GOALS, the Gateway Older Adult Legal Services project, which provides free legal services to indigent elderly in the St. Louis area; the Constitutional Law Conference in cooperation with the Washington University School of Law and the Sydney and Sylvia Jacobs Lecture in cooperation with Congregation Shaare Emeth.  

Umansky says the organization will continue to focus on the issues “at the heart of the Congress’ mission, to wit:  the safety of Israel, church/state and other First Amendment concerns, anti-Semitism, women’s empowerment, poverty, hunger, immigration and equality for all people.”   

The Midwest Jewish Congress is holding a meeting that is open to the public at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 19 at the Mid-County Branch of St. Louis County Library, 7821 Maryland Avenue in Clayton. The organization invites the attendance of any members of the public interested in learning more about the organization.