The American Jewish Committee
A Half-Century View
In 1906, a small group of men who had been meeting informally for some time decided to form a permanent organization which they called the American Jewish Committee. The character of those men and their ideas had a critical importance in the historical development of the organization.
At the center of the group was the commanding personality of Jacob H. Schiff. His wealth, his power, and his single-minded certainty were the rocks upon which the American Jewish Committee rested in its early years. Schiff had come to the United States in 1865 from Frankfort, where his family had long been active in business circles. A young man of eighteen anxious to make his fortune, he had become a broker, then spent some time back in Germany, and finally returned to America for good in 1875 as a partner in Kuhn, Loeb and Company. Ten years later he was the head of the firm. In the next quarter-century he participated in a succession of profitable ventures that increased both his wealth and his power. He formed an effective alliance with Edward H. Harriman, with whom he engaged in railroad development and finance. He was active in the affairs of such great corporations as the Equitable Life Assurance Society and the Union Pacific, Baltimore and Ohio, and Pennsylvania railroads; and his interests reached out into Mexico, Japan, and China. Only J. P. Morgan outdistanced him as a banker.
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