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AJCommittee hires former co-director of AJCongress — and says no merger afoot

Two weeks after the American Jewish Congress suspended its operations, the American Jewish Committee has its highest-ranking professional.

The American Jewish Committee, a longtime rival of the American Jewish Congress, has hired Marc Stern, the former co-executive director and general counsel for the AJCongress, as its associate general council for legal activity, the organization announced Monday.

The AJCongress officially went on hiatus in mid-July as a result of financial difficulties incurred over the past decade that were exacerbated when the organization lost most of its assets in the Bernard Madoff scandal.

Rumors that the two organizations had been discussing a merger had been longstanding and were confirmed by officials at the now dormant AJCongress, but this hire has nothing to do with any potential merger, according to an AJCommittee spokesman.

“There are no merger talks,” the spokesman said. “That has nothing to do with this. Marc Stern will be joining us on August 9.

Stern had been at the American Jewish Congress for 33 years, focusing on Church-State issues. In 2008, he became the acting co-director of the AJCongress along with Matt Horn, when its executive director Neil Goldstein stepped down. The two became co-directors when a search committee failed to find a replacement for Goldstein. 

"We are thrilled that Marc Stern is joining the AJC team,” said the American Jewish Committee’s executive director, David Harris. “Marc brings unparalleled experience and expertise in international law of war, or lawfare, constitutional and other legal advocacy issues that are of paramount concern to the Jewish community.”

Here is the press release:

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Marc Stern Named AJC Associate General Counsel

August 2, 2010 – New York – American Jewish Committee (AJC) is pleased to announce that Marc Stern, formerly of the American Jewish Congress, will join AJC on August 9 as Associate General Counsel for Legal Advocacy.

“We are thrilled that Marc Stern is joining the AJC team,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Marc brings unparalleled experience and expertise in international law of war, or lawfare, constitutional and other legal advocacy issues that are of paramount concern to the Jewish community.”

Stern, widely recognized as one of the American Jewish community’s top legal experts, will focus on these two legal advocacy areas, which have long been critical to the AJC mission.

“Throughout his stellar career, Marc Stern has consistently demonstrated a profound commitment to the democratic and pluralistic values that are integral to our country’s foundation, and are essential to protecting the rights of all minorities,” said Harris. “We look forward to Marc’s arrival and the contribution of his vast knowledge and experience to AJC, which has a long tradition of legal advocacy dating back to our role in the landmark 1925 Supreme Court case, Pierce v. Society of Sisters, which was the court’s earliest enunciation of the principle of religious freedom.”

Stern comes to AJC, where he will report to AJC’s General Counsel, Harvey Belkin, after 33 years at the American Jewish Congress. He has authored numerous amicus briefs, participating in arguing four cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and published many articles.

”As the Jewish community in Israel and the United States continue to confront important and novel legal issues, I am honored to become a member of AJC’s team developing and implementing effective responses,” said Stern.

Marc Stern was first employed by AJCongress in 1977, and served as General Counsel since 1999. He was named acting co-executive director two years ago. Stern is a graduate of Yeshiva University and Columbia University School of Law.

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