The American Jewish Congress (AJC) was founded in 1916 and reorganized in 1920 and 1938. The groundwork for the Northern California Division was laid in the 1930s by Rabbis Saul White of Beth Sholom and Elliot Burstein of Beth Israel when they organized a boycott of German goods. The Division was officially founded in December 1943. The AJC's mission shifted somewhat over the years but the core was the promotion of "Jewish rights and freedom" within the U.S. and the support of the "Jewish Homeland." The organization's Civil Rights stand broadened over the years from a concern for Jewish Rights (American Jewish Yearbook, 1922) to the "elimination of all forms of racial and religious bigotry" (American Jewish Yearbook, 1995) and was referred to by one member as a Jewish ACLU. One of the AJC's primary money making activities was the sponsoring of tours of Israel and Jewish themed tours to other cultural and religious sites around the world.
The collection documents the activities of the AJC from 1960 through the mid-1980s and contains minutes (1960-1982, incomplete), financial records, membership records, annual reports, articles, programs, newsletters, press releases, clippings, correspondence, briefs and published material, and some photographs. Most of the materials cover the 1970s through the mid 1980s, with some material from the early 1960s as well. The material is divided into five series: Corporate Records, Newsletters and Press Releases, Oral History Project, Subject Files and Correspondence. Topics include the intersection of the state and religion; Nazism in San Francisco; education; Zionism; Jews living in the Soviet Union; relations between Jews and African-Americans; and African-American Jews living in the U.S., Ethiopia, and elsewhere. Also contains materials relating to "San Francisco Jews of Eastern European Origin, 1880-1940," an oral history project that was conducted by the American Jewish Congress and the Judah L. Magnes Museum's Western Jewish History Center, together with some items from the East Bay Chapter of the American Jewish Congress.