Jon Weisberger

“People belong to organizations because they want them to be effective. They want them to accomplish things. . . You've got to know your issues and you've got to know your members. And that should give you what you need to make things happen.”

Peace Activism
1985 – 1993
New Jewish Agenda

Interview Date
July 17, 2015

Interviewer
Aliza Becker

The Interview

From 1985 to 1993 Jon Weisberger sat on the National Board of New Jewish Agenda (NJA), including a long stint on the Steering Committee.  He was especially involved in the Disarmament Task Force, but because the Board and Steering Committee oversaw the work of the organization’s Task Forces, he also had ongoing involvement in the organization’s other issue areas, including its work on the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Like others in the leadership, he focused on “making the organization more of a voice for progressive and left wing Jews “ on multiple issues and building alliances both within and outside of the American Jewish community to “put the organization out in front on a range of issues.”  NJA was particularly favorable because its members were predominantly youthful, like Weisberger himself then 35.

What drew him to New Jewish Agenda in particular was the fact that he had been, since 1977, a member of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA). The CPUSA, like other Communist parties around the world, including both the Israeli and Palestinian CPs, were strong advocates for "two states, period, plain and simple, and this is not something to debate,” and “that had been their position forever,” or at least since the United Nations voted for partition.

The big questions for him were how to advance a two-state solution. “Do you, say, negotiate with the PLO?”

His CP membership was “not a big secret” and caused no problems considering one of NJA’s issues was the mistreatment of Soviet Jews. But he felt that the major focus of NJA was still the Middle East and that the organization had the capacity to make a real difference on the issue.

Biography

Jon Weisberger was born in Springfield, Ohio in 1952 and spent much of his youth in Rochester, New York. Neither Zionism nor religious commitment played a large part in his family life. “We were kind of home Sunday schooled for a while, but I determined . . .at a fairly early age that religion wasn't of interest to me, and my understanding of being Jewish had nothing that I can remember to do with Israel.”  

So there was no real impediment to his dissenting from policies of the government of Israel, no crisis or turning point. There was, however, a strong influence from his father. “My view of being Jewish was shaped by my dad…that being Jewish means being progressive.”

Jon was an active member of the Communist Party USA from 1977 to 1991 and a member of the New Jewish Agenda Steering Committee from 1986 to 1993.  Today, he works as a bluegrass musician and songwriter in Nashville, Tennessee. He was the first recipient of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Songwriter of the Year award in 2012.