The mission of the American Jewish Peace Archive is to document through oral history the accounts of Jews in the United States who have worked in support of Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation since 1967, and in so doing, to facilitate dialogue and inquiry between the generations, to provide primary source material for scholars, and to provide guidance and inspire hope for the future.
The American Jewish Peace Archive is the first systematic effort to document the 50-year evolution of Jewish American Middle East peace activism through the stories of individuals involved. AJPA Project Director Aliza Becker has been collecting oral histories of Middle East peace pioneers using the standards of the Oral History Association since 2013. The interviews offer insight into the complex dynamics of social movement building and Jewish identity from a firsthand perspective and lessons learned from the perspective of time.
Since 1967, groups of American Jews have engaged in organized efforts to create the conditions to bring peace and to regularize relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors. They have made a significant impact within the U.S. and internationally in advancing peace.
- Gail Pressberg carried messages between a Member of Knesset and a PLO member starting in 1977. They explored shifting the PLO position from one democratic, secular state to favoring a two-state solution.
- New Jewish Agenda organized an historic dialogue at the 1985 United Nations NGO Women's Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, where an Israeli and Palestinian agreed to mutual recognition and two states.
- In the late 1990s, delegations to Saudi Arabia from the US/Middle East Project proposed ideas that underlay the 2002 Saudi Peace Plan.
The Archive will contain 180 individual recordings of peace pioneers and select transcripts, photos, and documents. It will help researchers understand the evolution of the American Jewish community's relationship to Israel and provide invaluable lessons for those who continue to work in pursuit of peace.
Aliza Becker is the founder and director of the American Jewish Peace Archive. A longtime activist, she became involved with New Jewish Agenda in 1986. In 2002, after a 20-year career as an immigrant educator and rights activist, Becker became the founding executive director of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom. When Brit Tzedek joined J Street in 2010, she worked as Special Projects Director building the group's Rabbinic Cabinet. Subsequently, Becker became the North American Liaison for the Israeli Social Movement, a group of leaders of the summer 2011 Israeli social justice protests. She then served as the US campaign director for Member of Knesset Stav Shaffir.
Grace Gleason is the Assistant Director of the American Jewish Peace Archive. She is a Jewish educator and fellow at SVARA: A Traditional Radical Yeshiva in the Chicago area. She served as a Leadership Fellow at Mishkan Chicago from 2014-2016. Additionally, she is an activist and leader with IfNotNow. She earned a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies with honors from the University of Chicago in 2014.
Clara Gallagher is the Digital Media Assistant at the American Jewish Peace Archive. She served as an AJPA student intern in 2016 through the generous support of the Justus and Karin Rosenberg Foundation. She earned a B.A. in Film and Electronic Arts with a Jewish Studies concentration from Bard College in December 2016.