See also: Samuel Rubin Foundation Institute for Policy Studies
Marcus Raskin Richard Barnet
Communist Party USA
Cora Weiss is an activist who has devoted her entire adult life to the antiwar, civil rights, and feminist movements. She also has served as president of the Samuel Rubin Foundation since its inception in 1959.
From 1959-63, Weiss was executive director of the African-American Students Foundation (AASF), whose mission was to raise money to help African students attend colleges in the United States. Among the noteworthy recipients of AASF education grants were Wangari Maathai and Barack Obama, Sr. (the father of future U.S. President Barack Obama).
In 1963 Weiss also played a key role in the Samuel Rubin Foundation's decision to create the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). Her husband, Peter Weiss, served as the first chairman of IPS's board of directors. Together, the Weisses selected Richard Barnet and Marcus Raskin to be the initial co-directors of IPS.
During the Vietnam War, Weiss was a leader of Women Strike for Peace, an anti-nuclear/antiwar group that, according to a congressional study, “enjoyed the complete support of the Communist Party.” Throughout the mid- to late Sixties, Weiss organized numerous anti-war demonstrations, the largest of which was held in Washington, DC on November 15, 1969.
Weiss also participated in numerous meetings with Vietnamese Communist officials in Paris and Hanoi. After one particular trip to Hanoi in December 1969, during which she had visited the infamously brutal “Hanoi Hilton,” Weiss returned to the U.S. and reported that American prisoners were being held in “excellent living conditions” in Hanoi’s “immaculate” jails. When U.S. Navy Lieutenant Robert Frishman, a returning POW who had suffered a severe arm injury while in Hanoi's custody, subsequently contradicted Weiss' portrayal of North Vietnamese prison conditions, Weiss quipped: “Since [Frishman] was caught as a war criminal, he was lucky to have an arm at all.”
As co-director of the Committee of Liaison with Families of Servicemen Detained in North Vietnam, Weiss, who made it plain that she knew the names of many American POWs, attempted to coerce relatives of those captives to intone pro-Communist propaganda by promising them, in return, the possibility of making contact with—or even winning the release of—their loved ones in Hanoi. None of the families accepted that arrangement.
After the war, Weiss worked to have Vietnam admitted to the United Nations; she later served as chairwoman of the committee celebrating Vietnam’s ultimate admission in 1977. That same year, Weiss was among the signers of an advertisement defending Hanoi's human-rights record.
Also in the aftermath of the war, Weiss criticized the South Vietnamese refugees who chose to flee from their Communist conquerors. On May 29, 1978, the Washington Post quoted Weiss saying: “Every country [i.e., including Vietnam] is entitled to its people. The people are a basic resource that belongs to the country.”
As a trustee of Hampshire College in the 1970s, Weiss started a campus campaign to divest from companies that were conducting business in apartheid South Africa.
In 1978 Weiss was invited by William Sloane Coffin, the activist left-wing minister at Riverside Church in Manhattan, to run Riverside's Disarmament Program, which, in the name of “peace,” sought to help consolidate Soviet nuclear superiority in Europe. In this role, Weiss in 1982 helped organize the largest pro-disarmament demonstration ever held. During her decade-long tenure at Riverside, which was situated across the street from the headquarters of the National Council of Churches, Weiss regularly received Cuban intelligence agents, Russian KGB agents, and Sandinista friends.
Also during the Cold War, Weiss attended women's disarmament summits in the former Soviet Union. In 1983 she was a delegate to an American-Soviet disarmament conference sponsored by IPS. Moreover, she was active with the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE), which later merged with the Nuclear Freeze Campaign and eventually (in 1993) became Peace Action, for which Weiss acted as an international representative.
In 1995 Weiss participated in the United Nations Conference on Women, held in Beijing. The following year, she was named president of The Hague Appeal for Peace.
In 1999 Weiss was honored by the Phelps Stokes Fund for the Africa-related work she had done over the years, most notably as executive director of the African-American Students Foundation in the early Sixties.
Eight days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Weiss lent her name to a Statement titled “Justice not Vengeance,” which said that a military response by America would only “spark a cycle of escalating violence,” and that bringing the perpetrators “to justice under the rule of law—not military action—is the way to end the violence.” To view a list of additional notable signatories, click here.
From 2000-2006, Weiss served as president of the International Peace Bureau. She also continued her duties as president of the Hague Appeal for Peace throughout this period, and served as a steering committee member of the recently formed Peace and Security Funders Group.
Addressing the UN Department on Disarmament Affairs in 2006, Weiss rationalized North Korea’s ongoing quest to build nuclear weapons as a development that was “no more dangerous than” the fact that the United States possessed such weapons.
Weiss is a strong supporter of the Center for Constitutional Rights, to which she donated $40,000 in 2008. Her husband, Peter, has been a vice president with that organization for many years.
In February 2008, Cora Weiss supported Democrat Barack Obama for U.S. President.
For additional information on Cora Weiss, click here.