Isaiah Minkoff (1901 – 1983)

Isaiah Minkoff had dedicated his entire life, to serving the Jewish community. Now, in the shadow of his passing, we stop to remember the great impact Minkoff had made in the Jewish world and the world at large.

Born in Warsaw in 1901, Minkoff immersed himself in the Jewish and socialist organizations of the day. As a teenager, he provided refugee relief work in Moscow during World War I. Following the Russian Revolutions of February and November 1917, Minkoff continued his efforts as a student activist, associating himself with the Russian Jewish Socialist-Democratic Party, leading him to a year sentence in Soviet prison. In 1922, Minkoff left for America and enrolled in the University of California at Berkeley, graduating in 1926 with a B.A. in Slavic languages.

By 1936, he served as the executive director of the Jewish Labor Committee, (a position he retained until 1941), and simultaneously began organizing Jewish labor union support, and support of the general American labor movement, on the issue of combatting Nazism. Minkoff held a “counter-olympics” held at Randalls Island in 1936, in protest to the holding of the regular games in Nazi Berlin during that year. This led to a labor-backed effort to boycott Nazi goods imported into the United States.

Before America entered the Second World War, Minkoff was active in gaining American asylum for European labor and socialist leaders who were threatened by Hitler’s advance. He additionally functioned as an unofficial liaison with the State Department in securing visas, passports and means of escape.

Minkoff further served as the executive director of The General Jewish Council, from 1941 to 1944, prior to his affiliation with National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC), beginning in 1944, where he operated as the executive director, and later as the vice president before until his retirement in 1975.

Isaiah Minkoff passed away at 82. Let us remember and admire his legacy as a leader, advocate, and innovator.