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Established as the Palestine Office (of the Zionist Organization) in 1908, the organization became the Zionist Commission, later Palestine Zionist Executive, which was designated in 1929 as the "Jewish agency" provided for in the League of Nations' Palestine Mandate and was thus again renamed as The Jewish Agency for Palestine. After the establishment of the State it received its current name, The Jewish Agency for Israel.

The Jewish Agency

The Jewish Agency for Eretz Israel (Hebrew: הסוכנות היהודית לארץ ישראל‎‎, HaSochnut HaYehudit L'Eretz Yisra'el) is the largest Jewish nonprofit organization in the world. Its mission is to "inspire Jews throughout the world to connect with their people, heritage, and land, and empower them to build a thriving Jewish future and a strong Israel."

It is best known as the primary organization responsible for the immigration ("Aliyah") and absorption of Jews and their families from the Diaspora into Israel. Since 1948, the Jewish Agency for Israel has been responsible for bringing 3 million immigrants to Israel, and offers them transitional housing in "absorption centers" throughout the country.

The Jewish Agency played a central role in the founding and the building of the State of Israel. David Ben Gurion was the Chairman of its Executive Committee from 1935, and it was in this capacity that on May 14, 1948 he proclaimed independence for the State of Israel. He became Israel's first Prime Minister. In the years before and after the creation of the State, the Jewish Agency oversaw the establishment of about 1,000 towns and villages in Mandate Palestine. It serves as the main link between Israel and Jewish communities around the world.

History

1908–1928: Beginnings as an arm of the World Zionist Organization

The Jewish Agency began as the Palestine Office (Hebrew: המשרד הארץ-ישראלי, HaMisrad HaEretz Yisraeli, lit. "Office for the Land of Israel"), founded in Jaffa in 1908, as the operational branch of the Zionist Organization (ZO) in Ottoman-controlled Palestine under the leadership of Arthur Ruppin. The main tasks of the Palestine Office were to represent the Jews of Palestine in dealings with the Turkish sultan and other foreign dignitaries, to aid Jewish immigration, and to buy land for Jews to settle.

Jewish Agency for Palestine 1929–1948

In 1929, the organization was officially inaugurated as The Jewish Agency for Palestine by the 16th Zionist Congress, held in Zurich, Switzerland. The new body was larger and included a number of Jewish non-Zionist individuals and organizations, who were interested in Jewish settlement in Palestine. They were philanthropic rather than political, and many opposed talk of a Jewish State. With this broader Jewish representation, the Jewish Agency for Palestine was recognized by the British in 1930, in lieu of the Zionist Organization, as the appropriate Jewish agency under the terms of the Mandate.

Pre-State Immigration and Settlement 1934–1948

  • a. Ha’apala (ascension) and HaMosad LeAliyah Bet ('המוסד לעלייה ב, lit. Institution for Immigration B). In 1938 the Jewish Agency facilitated clandestine immigration beyond the British quotas. Overall, in these years, The Agency, in partnership with other organizations, helped over 150,000 people in their attempt to enter Palestine, organizing a total of 141 voyages on 116 ships. The potential immigrants were Jews fleeing Nazi atrocities in Europe and, after the war, refugees from DP camps who sought a home in Palestine. Most of the Ma’apilim ships (of the Ha'apala movement) were intercepted by the British, but a few thousand Jews did manage to slip past the authorities. The operation as a whole also helped to unify the long-standing Jewish community in Palestine as well as the newcomer Jewish refugees from Europe.
  • b. In these years The Agency made use of the "tower and stockade" (Hebrew: חומה ומגדל) method to establish dozens of new Jewish settlements literally overnight, without obtaining permission from the Mandate authorities. These settlements were built on land purchased by the JNF and relied on an Ottoman law stating that any building with a full roof could not be torn down.
  • c. In 1943 The Jewish Agency's Henrietta Szold joined Recha Freier in developing the Youth Aliyah program, which between 1933 and 1948 rescued more 5,000 young Jews from Europe, brought them to Palestine, and educated them in special boarding schools; between 1933 and 2011 the Youth Aliyah movement helped over 300,000 young people make Aliyah.
  • d. When World War II broke out, The Jewish Agency established a committee to aid European Jewry by finding them entry permits to Palestine, sending them food, and maintaining contact. The Agency also helped recruit 40,000 members of the Palestinian Jewish community (a full 8 percent of the Jewish population of Palestine) to be trained by the British military and aid in the Allies' struggle against the Nazis,
  • e. When World War II ended The Agency continued to aid illegal immigration to Palestine through HaMossad LeAliyah Bet in an effort known as the Bricha. Between 1945 and 1948 The Jewish Agency send 66 ships of refugees to Palestine. Most were intercepted by British authorities, who placed the illegal immigrants, who had just survived the Holocaust, in detention camps in Palestine and later in Cyprus. Only with the establishment of the State of Israel were the detainees allowed to enter the country.

The United Nations decided to partition Palestine on 29 November 1947. Meanwhile, The Jewish Agency collaborated with the Jewish National Council to set up a People's Council (Mo'ezet Ha'am) and National Administration (Minhelet Ha'am). With the declaration of independence on 14 May 1948, these two bodies formed the provisional government of the State of Israel.

Today

Today The Jewish Agency operates and/or funds programs worldwide that:

  • (a) bring Jews to Israel on "Israel Experiences" trips, such as Masa Israel Journey - spending 5-12 months in Israel as part of a study, volunteer, or internship program with other young Jews from around the world, Taglit-Birthright Israel - visiting Israel as a part of the classic 10-day educational trip, free of charge, Na'ale / Elite Academy - the World's Jewish High School - for 10th-grade children, three years of tuition-free Israeli high school, leading to an Israeli “matriculation” diploma., and Onward Israel - spend a summer in Israel building own resume, meeting friends, and getting to know Israel;
  • (b) bring "Israel in your community" through a variety of Jewish education and communal programs, such as Shlichim (Israeli/local Emissaries) - bridging the gap between Jews of different backgrounds and Israel, increase Jewish awareness and pride within ones community and promote an understanding of Israel and its ideals, Partnership2Gether and programming for Russian-Speaking Jewry (RSJ) in Russia and other countries;
  • (c) help vulnerable Israelis (both Jewish and Arab) and encourage "Jewish Social Action" in programs such as Youth Villages - providing highly cost-effective boarding school settings for youth with severe emotional, behavioral and family problems, Youth Futures - provides community-based mentoring for at-risk pre-teens and adolescents in Israel, Young Activism - dedicated to the values of social activism as a way of life, repairing the world, and long-term change, Atidim - Enrichment Programs for three age-group gifted students: middle and high school students, soldiers programs (run by the IDF) and Higher Education Programs, Net@, geared to increase the social, economic, and educational opportunities of disadvantaged youth from Israel's geographical and social peripheries through technology education, Amigour subsidized housing - provides quality housing in Israel to the elderly, new immigrants, and single-parent families, and more; and
  • (d) facilitate Aliyah and helps immigrants integrate into Israeli society, e.g. Young Aliya - for new immigrants ages 18–35, Absorption Centers - temporary living quarters which provide a soft landing and supportive framework, tailored to the immigrant's needs, Ulpan - Hebrew classes for new immigrants "at your level", and Aliyah of Rescue - bring any Jew, from anywhere in the world, to safety in Israel.

By law, the Jewish Agency is a para-statal organization but it does not receive core funding from the Israeli government. The Jewish Agency is funded by The Jewish Federations of North America, Keren Hayesod, major Jewish communities and federations, and foundations and donors from Israel and around the world. The dozens of programs it supports or operates benefit well over a million Israelis and Jews worldwide every year.

Governance

The Jewish Agency Executive is charged with administering the operations of The Jewish Agency, subject to the control of the Board of Governors. It has 26 members: 12 members designated by WZO, 12 members designated jointly by JFNA/UIA and Keren Hayesod, and the Chairpersons of Keren Hayesod and the JFNA (ex-officio members).

Past Chairmen of the Executive

Name

Established as the Palestine Office (of the Zionist Organization) in 1908, the organization became the Zionist Commission, later Palestine Zionist Executive, which was designated in 1929 as the "Jewish agency" provided for in the League of Nations' Palestine Mandate and was thus again renamed as The Jewish Agency for Palestine. After the establishment of the State it received its current name, The Jewish Agency for Israel.

The Jewish Agency

The Jewish Agency for Eretz Israel (Hebrew: הסוכנות היהודית לארץ ישראל‎‎, HaSochnut HaYehudit L'Eretz Yisra'el) is the largest Jewish nonprofit organization in the world. Its mission is to "inspire Jews throughout the world to connect with their people, heritage, and land, and empower them to build a thriving Jewish future and a strong Israel."

It is best known as the primary organization responsible for the immigration ("Aliyah") and absorption of Jews and their families from the Diaspora into Israel. Since 1948, the Jewish Agency for Israel has been responsible for bringing 3 million immigrants to Israel, and offers them transitional housing in "absorption centers" throughout the country.

The Jewish Agency played a central role in the founding and the building of the State of Israel. David Ben Gurion was the Chairman of its Executive Committee from 1935, and it was in this capacity that on May 14, 1948 he proclaimed independence for the State of Israel. He became Israel's first Prime Minister. In the years before and after the creation of the State, the Jewish Agency oversaw the establishment of about 1,000 towns and villages in Mandate Palestine. It serves as the main link between Israel and Jewish communities around the world.

History

1908–1928: Beginnings as an arm of the World Zionist Organization

The Jewish Agency began as the Palestine Office (Hebrew: המשרד הארץ-ישראלי, HaMisrad HaEretz Yisraeli, lit. "Office for the Land of Israel"), founded in Jaffa in 1908, as the operational branch of the Zionist Organization (ZO) in Ottoman-controlled Palestine under the leadership of Arthur Ruppin. The main tasks of the Palestine Office were to represent the Jews of Palestine in dealings with the Turkish sultan and other foreign dignitaries, to aid Jewish immigration, and to buy land for Jews to settle.

Jewish Agency for Palestine 1929–1948

In 1929, the organization was officially inaugurated as The Jewish Agency for Palestine by the 16th Zionist Congress, held in Zurich, Switzerland. The new body was larger and included a number of Jewish non-Zionist individuals and organizations, who were interested in Jewish settlement in Palestine. They were philanthropic rather than political, and many opposed talk of a Jewish State. With this broader Jewish representation, the Jewish Agency for Palestine was recognized by the British in 1930, in lieu of the Zionist Organization, as the appropriate Jewish agency under the terms of the Mandate.

Pre-State Immigration and Settlement 1934–1948

  • a. Ha’apala (ascension) and HaMosad LeAliyah Bet ('המוסד לעלייה ב, lit. Institution for Immigration B). In 1938 the Jewish Agency facilitated clandestine immigration beyond the British quotas. Overall, in these years, The Agency, in partnership with other organizations, helped over 150,000 people in their attempt to enter Palestine, organizing a total of 141 voyages on 116 ships. The potential immigrants were Jews fleeing Nazi atrocities in Europe and, after the war, refugees from DP camps who sought a home in Palestine. Most of the Ma’apilim ships (of the Ha'apala movement) were intercepted by the British, but a few thousand Jews did manage to slip past the authorities. The operation as a whole also helped to unify the long-standing Jewish community in Palestine as well as the newcomer Jewish refugees from Europe.
  • b. In these years The Agency made use of the "tower and stockade" (Hebrew: חומה ומגדל) method to establish dozens of new Jewish settlements literally overnight, without obtaining permission from the Mandate authorities. These settlements were built on land purchased by the JNF and relied on an Ottoman law stating that any building with a full roof could not be torn down.
  • c. In 1943 The Jewish Agency's Henrietta Szold joined Recha Freier in developing the Youth Aliyah program, which between 1933 and 1948 rescued more 5,000 young Jews from Europe, brought them to Palestine, and educated them in special boarding schools; between 1933 and 2011 the Youth Aliyah movement helped over 300,000 young people make Aliyah.
  • d. When World War II broke out, The Jewish Agency established a committee to aid European Jewry by finding them entry permits to Palestine, sending them food, and maintaining contact. The Agency also helped recruit 40,000 members of the Palestinian Jewish community (a full 8 percent of the Jewish population of Palestine) to be trained by the British military and aid in the Allies' struggle against the Nazis,
  • e. When World War II ended The Agency continued to aid illegal immigration to Palestine through HaMossad LeAliyah Bet in an effort known as the Bricha. Between 1945 and 1948 The Jewish Agency send 66 ships of refugees to Palestine. Most were intercepted by British authorities, who placed the illegal immigrants, who had just survived the Holocaust, in detention camps in Palestine and later in Cyprus. Only with the establishment of the State of Israel were the detainees allowed to enter the country.

The United Nations decided to partition Palestine on 29 November 1947. Meanwhile, The Jewish Agency collaborated with the Jewish National Council to set up a People's Council (Mo'ezet Ha'am) and National Administration (Minhelet Ha'am). With the declaration of independence on 14 May 1948, these two bodies formed the provisional government of the State of Israel.

Today

Today The Jewish Agency operates and/or funds programs worldwide that:

  • (a) bring Jews to Israel on "Israel Experiences" trips, such as Masa Israel Journey - spending 5-12 months in Israel as part of a study, volunteer, or internship program with other young Jews from around the world, Taglit-Birthright Israel - visiting Israel as a part of the classic 10-day educational trip, free of charge, Na'ale / Elite Academy - the World's Jewish High School - for 10th-grade children, three years of tuition-free Israeli high school, leading to an Israeli “matriculation” diploma., and Onward Israel - spend a summer in Israel building own resume, meeting friends, and getting to know Israel;
  • (b) bring "Israel in your community" through a variety of Jewish education and communal programs, such as Shlichim (Israeli/local Emissaries) - bridging the gap between Jews of different backgrounds and Israel, increase Jewish awareness and pride within ones community and promote an understanding of Israel and its ideals, Partnership2Gether and programming for Russian-Speaking Jewry (RSJ) in Russia and other countries;
  • (c) help vulnerable Israelis (both Jewish and Arab) and encourage "Jewish Social Action" in programs such as Youth Villages - providing highly cost-effective boarding school settings for youth with severe emotional, behavioral and family problems, Youth Futures - provides community-based mentoring for at-risk pre-teens and adolescents in Israel, Young Activism - dedicated to the values of social activism as a way of life, repairing the world, and long-term change, Atidim - Enrichment Programs for three age-group gifted students: middle and high school students, soldiers programs (run by the IDF) and Higher Education Programs, Net@, geared to increase the social, economic, and educational opportunities of disadvantaged youth from Israel's geographical and social peripheries through technology education, Amigour subsidized housing - provides quality housing in Israel to the elderly, new immigrants, and single-parent families, and more; and
  • (d) facilitate Aliyah and helps immigrants integrate into Israeli society, e.g. Young Aliya - for new immigrants ages 18–35, Absorption Centers - temporary living quarters which provide a soft landing and supportive framework, tailored to the immigrant's needs, Ulpan - Hebrew classes for new immigrants "at your level", and Aliyah of Rescue - bring any Jew, from anywhere in the world, to safety in Israel.

By law, the Jewish Agency is a para-statal organization but it does not receive core funding from the Israeli government. The Jewish Agency is funded by The Jewish Federations of North America, Keren Hayesod, major Jewish communities and federations, and foundations and donors from Israel and around the world. The dozens of programs it supports or operates benefit well over a million Israelis and Jews worldwide every year.

Governance

The Jewish Agency Executive is charged with administering the operations of The Jewish Agency, subject to the control of the Board of Governors. It has 26 members: 12 members designated by WZO, 12 members designated jointly by JFNA/UIA and Keren Hayesod, and the Chairpersons of Keren Hayesod and the JFNA (ex-officio members).

Past Chairmen of the Executive