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Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles. Community Relations Committee (1933-) | Special Collections & Archives

Name: Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles. Community Relations Committee (1933-)

Historical Note:

In response to the spread of organized anti-Semitism in the United States during the 1930s spearheaded by domestic groups like the Ku Klux Klan and international ones like the propaganda arm of Hitler's Third Reich in Germany, leaders of Los Angeles' Jewish community formed a special defense organization known as the Los Angeles Community Relations Committee. The committee's purpose was to work with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), B'nai B'rith, the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the American Jewish Congress, the Council of Jewish Women, and other Zionist organizations to fight anti-Semitism in the United States.

Mendel Silberberg, a respected community leader and motion picture industry attorney, served as the first chairman of Los Angeles Jewish Community Committee, which consisted of approximately forty representatives from various Jewish organizations. The committee adopted the strategy set forth by the ADL in 1933 for combating "un-Americanism", which was to infiltrate and expose pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic organizations and, if necessary, turn the information over to federal government agencies. The Community Relations Committee met on a biweekly basis to set policy and report on right wing activities in Los Angeles. It had subcommittees on research and fact-finding, public relations, legal and legislative matters, internal Jewish relations, interfaith activities, and education.

The Committee maintained close relationships with other like-minded groups, even sharing an office suite with the Southern California Anti-Defamation Council during the 1940s. The Committee collected a massive amount of propaganda literature, primarily from anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi, and other right wing organizations. Undercover agents and informants were recruited from the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans, and planted among suspect groups in the Los Angeles area.

The Americanism Committee of the Los Angeles County Council of the American Legion presented information gathered by the Community Relations Committee to the House Un-American Activities Committee (also known as the Dies Committee or HUAC), showing the connections between local groups including the American German Bund, Friends of the New Germany, and the German government in Europe. The Committee's work in the 1930s was so effective that both the AJC and ADL considered it their Los Angeles branch.

The committee also worked closely with national Jewish groups such as the American Jewish Committee and United Jewish Welfare Fund to fight the Nazi threat, and to coordinate Jewish civic defense activities nationwide. It provided information on right wing activities to the FBI, military and naval intelligence, and state and federal government prosecutors. The evidence they gathered and reports they wrote were used in trials involving naturalization proceedings, sedition and espionage.

In 1938, Joseph Roos, a newspaperman and screenwriter who had served as a volunteer informant, joined the Community Relations Committee's staff. He set up a master file system for the committee’s records, and edited the CRC's News Letter, which provided "intelligence" news reports and analysis of propaganda to committee, government officials, teachers, churchmen, influential journalists, and radio commentators across the United States. Radio broadcaster Walter Winchell and newspaper columnist Drew Pearson obtained many of their sensational "scoops" about American extremist groups from the News Letter. Under the News Research Service, Roos also directed the CRC's Radio Project and produced news releases and newspaper columns. The last issue of this noteworthy publication went to press on December 7, 1941.

With the United States' entry into World War II, the Committee's intelligence gathering activities and investigative journalism were superseded by new activities with patriotic organizations, veterans groups, inter-faith religious organizations, and local schools and colleges to combat rising bigotry and discrimination. In 1941 the committee changed its name to the Community Relations Committee (CRC) of the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles.

At war's end, the CRC again reorganized itself in an attempt to better serve the larger Los Angeles community. Some of the most important issues the CRC addressed in the post-World War II period included resettlement of refugees from Eastern Europe on the West Coast, de-nazification in Germany, immigration legislation, religion in public schools, communism, civil liberties, discrimination in housing, fair employment practices, inter-racial relations, stereotyping in the motion picture industry and religious tolerance. The CRC also kept in close contact with the motion picture and television industries in an attempt to limit the cast stereotyping of Jews and other ethnic groups.

Note Author: Robert G. Marshall

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