AJC Mourns Passing of Rep. William Gray

AJC Mourns Passing of Rep. William Gray

July 3, 2013 – New York – AJC mourns the passing of Representative William H. Gray III, a distinguished legislator and member of the clergy, a champion of social justice, and a friend of Israel. The congressman from Philadelphia served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1979-1991. A Baptist pastor, he regularly returned to Philadelphia on weekends to preach while serving in Congress. He was 71 years old.

“Bill Gray epitomized the strengths of cooperation between the African American and Jewish communities, in Philadelphia and across the country,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “His steadfast support for strong U.S-Israel relations, for the Soviet Jewry movement, and for working with other faith groups to advance civil rights and social justice in the U.S. will long be remembered as hallmarks of his extraordinary impact.”

Gray and AJC co-founded Operation Understanding, a landmark initiative to build mutual understanding and cooperation between young African Americans and American Jews in Philadelphia, The program, established in 1985, initially brought African-American and Jewish teenagers together for a summer trip to Israel and Senegal to learn about one another’s roots. “Gray was trying to bring blacks and Jews together when the forces out there were pulling them apart,” AJC Philadelphia Director Murray Friedman later said.

Today, the group travels in the U.S. to visit places significant to American Jewish and African-American history. Operation Understanding today is an independent not-for-profit organization, based in the offices of AJC Philadelphia.