Cora Weiss was born to communist parents in Harlem, New York in 1934; her father was Samuel Rubin, who earned a vast fortune with the Fabergé corporation. Weiss went on to become an activist who devoted her entire adult life to the antiwar, civil rights, and feminist movements. She also became president of the Samuel Rubin Foundation at 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 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 the new think tank.
During the Vietnam War, Weiss was a leader of Women Strike for Peace, an anti-nuclear/anti-war group that, according to one 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, D.C. 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 barbaric prison dubbed as the “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.
In the early 1970s, Weiss was a sponsor of Medical Aid For Indochina (MAI), a new organization whose mission was to aid the Communist forces in Southeast Asia (North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia). She continued to support the Communists not only until the war’s end in 1975, but afterward as well, channeling material aid to Hanoi through the Church World Service and the National Council of Churches.
Once the North Vietnamese Communists had conquered South Vietnam, Weiss founded and served on the Interim Committee of Friendshipment, an organization whose purpose was to send aid to Hanoi and propagandize against the U.S. embargo.
Following 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. On that historic occasion, Weiss — ignoring Hanoi’s long record of egregious human-rights violations and its torture of American POWs — shouted to the Vietnamese delegation: “Welcome in the name of the American people!” 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 1976 Weiss was an Executive Board member of a hardcore Marxist organization known as the July 4th Coalition, which was formed to protest the 200th anniversary of America’s founding.
In 1978 Weiss was invited by William Sloane Coffin, the activist left-wing minister at Manhattan’s Riverside Church — situated across the street from the headquarters of the National Council of Churches — to direct Riverside’s Disarmament Program, which, in the name of “peace,” sought to help consolidate Soviet nuclear superiority in Europe. The program’s inaugural event was attended by three IPS luminaries: Peter Weiss, Marcus Raskin, and Richard Barnet. Cora Weiss and Rev. Coffin also invited Yuri Karpralov and Sergi Paramonov, two KGB officers who were members of the Soviet Embassy.
In her role as head of the Disarmament Program, Weiss in 1982 helped organize the largest pro-disarmament demonstration ever held.
During her decade-long tenure at Riverside, Weiss regularly received Cuban intelligence agents, Russian KGB agents, and Sandinista friends. She tried to make the case that the perceived Soviet threat was nothing more than a “hereditary disease,” a figment of the American imagination.
Also during the Cold War, Weiss attended women’s disarmament summits in the 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 1984 Weiss was part of a U.S. delegation whose members were guests of the Marxist Sandinista government in Nicaragua.
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 against the United States, 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.” Among the other signatories were such notables as Harry Belafonte, John Cavanagh, Danny Glover, Ziad Asali, Medea Benjamin, Ben Cohen, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Barbara Ehrenreich, Mike Farrell, Jerry Greenfield, Randy Hayes, Steve Kirsch, Saul Landau, Michael Lerner, Rosa Parks, Bonnie Raitt, Marcus Raskin, Michael Ratner, Mark Ritchie, Edward Said, Martin Sheen, Alice Slater, Gloria Steinem, and Alice Walker. To view a more comprehensive list of names, 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 October 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.
In 2008, Cora Weiss supported Democrat Barack Obama for U.S. President.
In June 2010, Weiss addressed a “Disarm Now!” conference at Riverside Church in New York City.
Below is a partial list of Communist Party USA (CPUSA), Socialist Workers Party, and other communist “united front” organizations and causes in which Weiss has participated at various times since the 1960s:
For additional information on Cora Weiss, click here.
Further Reading: “Cora Weiss” (WomenInPeace.org, DCTVNY.org, KeyWiki.org, Adelphi.edu, Peace.ca); “Red Queen of “Peace” (by Michael Tremoglie, 12-11-2002); “Cora Weiss Papers, 1960-” (Swarthmore.edu); Shadow World: Resurgent Russia, the Global New Left, and Radical Islam (by Robert Chandler, pp. 191-202); “Presentation at the UN Department for Disarmament Affairs on ‘The United Nations and Security’” (10-11-2006); “Affiliations” (KeyWiki.org, re: Cora Weiss’s ties to Communist and “united front” organizations).