David Harris, P'05

David Harris standing behind a podium with the acronym AJC printed on it. David is speaking and gesturing with hands.

Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters

David Harris has led the American Jewish Committee (AJC), an organization dedicated to the security and well-being of the Jewish people around the world, for more than three decades. He steps down as its CEO in fall 2022.

Harris earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and completed his graduate studies at the London School of Economics. He has been a visiting scholar at John Hopkins and Oxford universities.

In 1974, as a fluent Russian speaker, he was selected to participate in a U.S.-Soviet government exchange program, where, teaching in Moscow and Leningrad schools, he witnessed the dire circumstances of Soviet Jews who were being systematically prevented by the Soviet Union from emigrating to Israel and other free nations.

Shaped by this experience, including his eventual detention and expulsion by Soviet authorities for his contact with Soviet Jewish activists, Harris began his journey of becoming one of the most visible and highly regarded advocates for the Jewish people. He has explained his lifelong mission as seeking to "assist Jews in danger worldwide, support Israel's quest for peace and security, combat antisemitism, and defend democratic values against the radical right and the totalitarian left."

He was described by Shimon Peres, the late president of Israel, as the "foreign minister of the Jewish people."

During his time at AJC, which he first joined in 1979, Harris has overseen efforts to repeal, in 1991, the infamous "Zionism is racism" resolution adopted in a 1975 United Nations General Assembly resolution; help resettle Jews from Ethiopia; advance peace by working quietly with Arab and Muslim-led nations; and promote U.S. and international support for Israel. On behalf of AJC, he has participated in humanitarian efforts responding to man-made and natural disasters throughout the world, including in the U.S., Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Europe.

Harris has published broadly on global trends, the Middle East, Holocaust memory, and the struggle against antisemitism. His advocacy has been recognized with numerous awards by 15 foreign governments. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and the French Parliament.