Allan Solomonow papers
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Allan Wayne Solomonow (1937-2020) was a Jewish peace activist who was active in New York City and the San Francisco Bay area from the 1970s through the 2010s. His particular concern was Middle East peace, especially the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Solomonow was born in Omaha, Nebraska to Edward Joseph Solomonow and Sarah Toby Kaplan and was step-son to Joseph's second wife, Frances L. Solomonow. His father was in the military and his early childhood was marked with frequent moves. In 1945, the family settled in Los Angeles, California, where Solomonow graduated from Alexander Hamilton High School in 1955. Solomonow attended the University of Illinois and the University of California, Berkeley, where he received a BA in political science in 1960. While in college, Solomonow was a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity and was on the executive committee and served as Secretary-General of the 15th College Model United Nations at UC Berkeley. He was also involved in SLATE (named for a slate of candidates), the influential New Left student group active between 1957 and 1964. Solomonow also studied teaching at Antioch University, New England, where he received a Master of Art in Teaching (MAT) in Social Sciences in 1965. In New York City, Solomonow worked briefly for the Foundation for Integrative Education and as a teacher in the New York City Public Schools.
During the Vietnam War, Solomonow requested Conscientious Objector status on Jewish religious grounds. However, his case was never acted upon and was deferred until past draft age. While directing the Counselor-In-Training program at Camp Ahimsa, a project of the Committee for Nonviolent Action (CNVA), Solomonow was invited, in 1967, to be part of a demonstration at the launching of the nuclear submarine, the "Will Rogers." During his speech, Solomonow spontaneously tore his signature off a duplicate copy of his draft card and subsequently mailed the remainder of the card to the President of the United States. He was prosecuted and sentenced in 1968 to a year in federal prison for the crime of "mutilating" a Selective Service document. In October 1968, Solomonow entered Allenwood Federal Prison in Pennsylvania, where he estimated about a quarter of the population were draft refusers. There he was assigned to teach what he described as "literacy to moonshiners and inner city blacks in the prison's educational system." Solomonow was also involved in other anti-war protests and was the subject of People v. Solomonow, 56 Misc. 2d 1050 (1968) - NY: Supreme Court 1968.
After being released from prison in 1969, Solomonow became the first national program director of the Jewish Peace Fellowship (JPF), a nondenominational Jewish organization whose work centered at the time on support for Jewish Conscientious Objectors. Among his accomplishments at JPF was editing the book Roots of Jewish Nonviolence (Nyack, N.Y.: Jewish Peace Fellowship, 1970), a copy of which was sent by JPF to every draft board in the United States.
Solomonow left JPF in 1970 to become coordinator of the Committee on New Alternatives in the Middle East (CONAME), in New York City. CONAME was begun in 1969, in a time when other US peace organizations had no formal Middle East program. Like Solomonow, most of the founding members of CONAME were Jews (including Noam Chomsky, Richard Falk, Rabbi Everett Gendler, Irene Gendzier, Paul Jacobs, Robert Jay Lifton, Seymour Melman, and Don Peretz). Solomonow's activities at CONAME included organizing speaking opportunities throughout the United States for Palestinian-Israeli teams and developing support in the US for peace activists in Israel and Palestine. Eventually the organization advocated for formal Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and encouraged the end of settlement activity and military aid to Israel and the Arab countries. In 1972, Solomonow made his first trip to the Middle East to meet with both Israeli and Palestinian peace community members, and to line up speakers to bring back to the US.
In 1975, CONAME ceased operations when Solomonow left to begin the Middle East Program at the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), advocating for Israeli dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and support for an independent Palestinian State. In 1975, he led the first interfaith peace tour to the region, an activity he would repeat dozens of times in the coming decades.
In 1976, Solomonow founded the Middle East Peace Project (MEPP), a coalition of over 50 national and regional peace, justice, and religious organizations. Its goal was to "increase the quantity and quality of Middle East peace education work in the United States by serving as a resource to all who wish to use its good offices." The MEPP convened the Middle East Consultation Group which consisted of program officers from various national organizations with Middle East peace programs. The organization regularly distributed to its members literature on the Middle East though the Middle East Peace Literature Service which was run cooperatively with the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Like CONAME before it, MEPP also sponsored Israeli and Palestinian speakers on US tours.
Besides his paid work leading Jewish peace organizations, Solomonow was a member of the Jewish peace group Breira (1973-1977), one of the earliest organizations to call for mutual Israeli-Palestinian recognition and a two-state solution to the crisis. Eventually, Breira was brought down by attacks from conservative Jewish organizations. Later he became active in the New Jewish Agenda (NJA) (1980-1992) and its Middle East Taskforce, eventually serving on the NJA steering committee. In 1980, he became a Coordinator of the national Shalom Network, an all-volunteer organization of Jewish peace and social justice organizations around the country. In its earliest years the organization operated out of Solomonow's offices at MEPP.
In 1983, Solomonow joined the staff of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) as Director of the Middle East Program at their regional office in San Francisco. AFSC involvement in the Middle East goes back to 1949 when the Quaker organization provided humanitarian relief to Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip and Galilee. Its American-based Middle East peace efforts began in the 1970s and frequently involved cooperative work with organizations including CONAME, Breira and New Jewish Agenda. Solomonow's work in the organization focused on educational initiatives in the US, promotion of Israeli and Palestinian speakers, interreligious tours of the Middle East, and the advancement of nonviolent resistance to Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories. During his long tenure at AFSC (1983-2009), Solomonow was the focus of several controversies, with both Jewish American and Arab American individuals and organizations accusing him of biased work in the peace community.
In addition to the published works mentioned above, Solomonow also edited Towards Middle East Dialogue: Responses to the Quakers' Search for Peace in the Middle East (New York : Committee on New Alternatives in the Middle East, 1972); Resources for Middle East Information (Nyack, N.Y: Middle East Peace Literature Service, 1973); The Great Berringer Debate (Nyack, N.Y.: Middle East Peace Literature Service, 1974); Where We Stand: Official Statements of American Churches on the Middle East Conflict (New York: The Middle East Consultation Group, 1977); and Israel and the PLO: Confronting the Unthinkable (St. Paul, Minn.: Middle East Peace Now, 1979).
Solomonow occasionally taught courses on Middle East peace and nonviolence at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Utah. He and his wife, Ofelia Alayeto, were long-standing members of Kehila Synagogue in Piedmont, California, and had two sons, Gregory and Seth Solomonow. Solomonow died on January 11, 2020.
(Sources: Internal; American Jewish Peace Archive (http://ajpeacearchive.org/); Ancestry.com.)
The Allan Solomonow papers document the Jewish peace activist's life's work and primarily comprise his professional papers related to the Jewish peace community as well as collected secondary material that informed his thinking. There are five series in the collection: I. General materials; II. Organizational and professional work; III. Topical materials; IV. Publications; and V. Audiovisual materials.
The first series, "Personal and educational materials," contains several subseries including biographical material on Solomonow; materials collected during his student years at University of California, Berkeley; personal correspondence; a collection of personal materials including those associated with the celebration of Jewish holidays in the Solomonow family home; materials used in courses he taught on the Middle East; a variety of mailing lists collected over the years; personal and professional notes taken on legal pads; and a collection of Solomonow's own writings and speeches and the materials used in their preparation.
The second series, "Organizational and professional work," is divided into series by organization or project. This part of the collection comprises material from Solomonow's work, whether paid or not, with the American Friend Service Committee (AFSC), Breira, Committee of Americans for Peace in the Middle East (CAPME), Committee on New Alternatives in the Middle East (CONAME), the Middle East Peace Project (MEPP) and the New Jewish Agenda (NJA). It also includes documentation of other professional work undertaken by Solomonow such as his involvement as part of the Coalition Against Surveillance (CAS) in confronting the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for their exposed (1988) surveillance tactics aimed at many left-leaning groups; his involvement in the Proposition "W" Campaign (1988) in San Francisco which called for US recognition of the Palestinian people's right to self-determination and statehood; the planning and production of a Sharing Jerusalem advertisement in the New York Times (1988); and significant documentation of Solomonow's many sponsored tours of the Middle East (early 1970s-2008).
The subseries on "American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)" is the largest of these subseries, itself divided into sub-subseries: "Organizational materials," representing the work of various committees and programs; "Controversies," documenting several of the professional disputes Solomonow found himself in over the years; and a collection of "Programming and subject files," which includes the public work undertaken by Solomonow and AFSC as well as collected material that informed this work.
A series of "Topical materials" consists of several groupings of files which demonstrate some of the ways that Solomonow thought to organize collected literature over the years. There is a subseries of files containing material related to "Churches on Middle East peace;" one on what Solomonow considered "Negative" reactions to his brand of peace work; one documenting "Doves and nonviolence;" a subseries on "Palestine, Palestinians, and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO);" a subseries of materials on various named "Perspectives on Middle East peace;" a large collection of "Reference files, A-Z;" and a set of "Topical files" grouped by headings: Arab, Education, International, Israel, Jewish, Negative, and Palestinians.
The series of "Publications" is made up of both "Monographs" (in the form of books, pamphlets, dissertations and short articles from a range of perspectives on Middle East peace) as well as "Periodicals" collected by Solomonow. These materials are described at the title level for both monographs and periodicals. However, there are additional published materials scattered throughout the collection that should not be overlooked. There is also a full box of "Miscellaneous clippings, articles, and copies" which were collected by Solomonow but never filed.
The series, "Audiovisual materials," contains a large selection of photographic slides taken in the Middle East (some for professionally produced programs, others perhaps more casually produced or collected), as well as a small number of audio and video formats described by title.
The series "Jim Haber material relating to Solomonow," contains a small number of materials gifted separately, but relating to Allan Solomonow and his peace work. It was requested that this material be included within this collection rather than as a separate collection. Much of the material appears to have been created by Solomonow (including original letters from Noam Chomsky), and relates, generally, to peace efforts in the Middle East.
Sold by Bolerium Books, 2016; Box 37, gift of Jim Haber, 2017
- Coalition Against Surveillance
- New Jewish Agenda (Organization)
- Middle East Peace Project
- Committee on New Alternatives in the Middle East
- Breira organization
- Anti-defamation League
- American Friends Service Committee
- Munazzamat al-Tahrir al-Filastiniyah
- Political activists
- Arab Americans
- Palestinian Arabs
- Jews -- United States
- Arab-Israeli conflict
- Voyages and travels
- Peace movements
- Persian Gulf War, 1991
- Social movements
- Stereotypes (Social psychology)
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- John Anderies
- Finding Aid Date
- September 21, 2017
- Access Restrictions
The collection is open for research.
The following files are restricted until 2022 at the request of Solomonow: Box 1, Folders 14-26; and Box 4, Folder 22. Researchers interested in viewing these restricted file should email the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rarebooks, and Manuscripts for permission.
Access to original audiovisual materials is restricted: Box 5, Folder 29; Box 22, Folder 31; Box 32, Folders 1, 4, 24-28; and Box 36. The Kislak Center will provide access to the information on these materials from duplicate master files. If the original does not already have a copy, it will be sent to an outside vendor for copying. Patrons are financially responsible for the cost. The turnaround time from request to delivery of digital items is about two weeks for up to five items and three to seven weeks for more than five items. Please contact Reprographic Services (email@example.com) for cost estimates and ordering. Once digital items are received, researchers will have access to the files on a dedicated computer in the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center. Researchers should be aware of specifics of copyright law and act accordingly.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.