Timeline: 1905-the present
Historical Context: The progressive and Zionist Ameinu traces its roots to Po’alei Zion (“Workers of Zion”), a socialist Zionist organization committed to the development of a Jewish proletariat in Palestine. Po’alei Zion was founded in Russia after the Bund (secular Jewish socialist party) rejected Zionism in 1901. The U.S. affiliate of Po’alei Zion was founded in 1905.
In 1971, the North American affiliate of Po’alei Zion joined with the American Habonim (“The Builders”) Association and Farband (“Jewish National Workers Alliance”) to become the Labor Zionist Alliance (LZA). In 2004 the LZA changed its name to Ameinu (“Our People”) with the tag line: “Liberal Values, Progressive Israel.”
Ameinu’s predecessors supported Israeli independence pre-state, as well as social justice activism and the development of an American secular Jewish education system. They established a support organization for Histadrut , the Israeli trade union movement as well as for Pioneer Women (now Na’amat – a Hebrew acronym for “Movement of Working Women and Volunteers” – U.S.A.). Ameinu members have been among the most committed American Zionists for decades, with influence throughout the Jewish community. Many made aliyah and formed their own kibbutzim in Israel’s early years.
Brief Description: As a multi-issue progressive Zionist organization, working for a negotiated two-state solution and preserving Israel as a democratic Jewish state have been central to Ameinu’s mission. The organization works with Israeli partners on critical economic and social justice issues in Israel. Such partners include the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development (NISPED), Dror Israel Movement, BINA Center for Jewish Identity and Hebrew Culture and YEDID, The Association for Community Empowerment, Ameinu also operates the Kibbutz Program Center and provides support for Habonim Dror (“The Builders of Freedom”) and its seven summer youth camps.
Ameinu plays an important role in national and international Jewish and Zionist organizations. It is the American affiliate of the World Labor Zionist Movement (WLZM) and through it maintains a relationship with the Israel Labor Party; WLZM in Australia and South Africa have both adopted the Ameinu name. Kenneth Bob, the President of Ameinu, is a member of the World Zionist Executive Board and the Jewish Agency Board of Governors.
In the U.S., Ameinu is a member of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, American Zionist Movement, Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues, The World Jewish Congress, the Jewish National Fund and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Kenneth Bob also sits on the board of J Street.
Activism strategy: Ameinu focuses on building American Jewish support for a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Educational initiatives and strategic partnerships with a broad spectrum of national and international organizations are its primary methods.
Membership/Chapters: Ameinu is a grassroots organization with eight chapters and a national office in New York City. Chapters belong to local Jewish Community Relations Councils (JCRCs), Jewish Federations, boards of Jewish education, and other umbrella organizations.
Activities: Ameinu’s predecessor, LZA, was involved in Middle East peace efforts prior to Oslo. In 1988, then president Menachem Rosensaft participated in a meeting with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat in Stockholm. Fifteen years before that, in 1973, their youth affiliate Habonim Dror wrote to then Prime Minister Golda Meir protesting settlement activity over the Green Line.
Over the years since, peace-related educational activities have included widely distributed policy statements, online petitions, missions to Israel, and speaking tours by Israeli peace movement leaders including Ami Ayalon, Colette Avital, Yuli Tamir, Ophir Pines-Paz and Ephraim Sneh.
Ameinu has played a critical role in organizing support for peace efforts within the Jewish community. Specifically, it took public positions in support of Israeli-Palestinian peace initiatives such as the Oslo Accords and the Geneva Accord, and helped develop coalitions to rally American Jewish communal support. They were active in supporting the 2007 Annapolis Peace Conference convened by President George W. Bush, including organizing a rally at the launch of the talks. The organization has been very involved in support of President Barack Obama’s efforts to promote peace, in particular trying to influence communal umbrella organizations to be supportive, or at least not disruptive.
In 2004, Ameinu, together with Habonim Dror, Meretz USA (now PPI), and Hashomer Hatzair founded the Union of Progressive Zionists, a campus Middle East peace organization. In 2009, the Union of Progressive Zionists become J Street U, the campus arm of J Street.
Contributions: Many Ameinu activists have a lifelong commitment to preserving a Jewish democratic Israel, and are often active in a wide variety of organizations and alliances. They also represent a pro-Israel/pro-peace position in numerous mainstream Jewish and Zionist organizations.