A storied 92-year-old American Jewish advocacy group is looking to save its staff and programs from termination by merging with a larger organization, over a year after losing its financial base in the Madoff swindle.

The American Jewish Congress, founded in 1918 by Jewish luminaries such as Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter and Rabbi Stephen Wise, lost much of its assets when the multibillion-dollar Bernard Madoff investment fraud collapsed in December 2008.

Even before the financial collapse, which may have cost the group as much as 90 percent of its roughly $24 million endowment, the congress lacked a large membership and donor base.

According to its Internal Revenue Service Form 990 for 2008, its net assets dropped from $16.9m. in 2007 to $3.8m. in 2008. It has spent much of the time since the collapse trying to find a replacement financial base.

Now, The Jerusalem Post has learned, the organization is speaking to the American Jewish Committee in an effort to initiate some type of merger with the much larger advocacy group, whose 2008 Form 990 showed net assets of $117m.

The 104-year-old committee is one of the largest and most influential US Jewish organizations.

The contacts are still in the initial stages, though congress officials have been considering a merger for some time, according to sources.

Congress officials hope such a move would save some of the organization’s programs, such as an annual workshop for Israeli public diplomacy officials and work on US-Israeli scientific cooperation. It could also offer continued employment for staff members running those programs.

Officials at both organizations declined to comment on Sunday.

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