Happy Birthday Jewish Agency!

August 12, 2009 / 21 Av 5769

Today marks the creation of the Jewish Agency for Israel as we know it today.

The Jewish Agency was established by the World Zionist Organization at the 16th Zionist Congress, on August 11, 1929, as a partnership between the WZO and “non-Zionist” Jewish leaders, among them such luminaries as Herbert Samuel, Louis Marshall, Albert Einstein, Lord Melchett, Leon Blum, and Felix Warburg together with WZO luminaries Sholem Asch, Chaim Weizmann, and Nachum Sokolow.

The Jewish Agency for Israel was originally established under the terms of the British Mandate for Palestine to promote Jewish immigration and to administer the affairs of the Yishuv.

Article 4 of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine of 1922 stated:

ART. 4. An appropriate Jewish agency shall be recognized as a public body for the purpose of advising and co-operating with the Administration of Palestine in such economic, social and other matters as may affect the establishment of the Jewish national home and the interests of the Jewish population in Palestine, and, subject always to the control of the Administration to assist and take part in the development of the country.

The Zionist organization, so long as its organization and constitution are in the opinion of the Mandatory appropriate, shall be recognized as such agency. It shall take steps in consultation with His Britannic Majesty's Government to secure the co-operation of all Jews who are willing to assist in the establishment of the Jewish national home.

Since 1923, a group existed that represented the Jewish community in Palestine to the British mandate authorities. At successive Zionist congresses, Chaim Weizmann backed a proposal to enlarge the Jewish agency to include non-Zionist groups. The 16th Zionist Congress, meeting in Zurich in 1929, however, approved the enlarged Jewish Agency, which was created officially in August of 1929 as the Jewish Agency for Palestine.

The Agency was set up in accordance with the stipulation in the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine (1922) -- the goal of the mandate system was to eventually transfer authority over territories taken from countries defeated in World War to the local population -- that a "Jewish agency " comprised of representatives of world Jewry assist in the "establishment of the Jewish National Home . . . in Palestine." The story of the Jewish Agency is virtually identical to the history of the Yishuv (the Jewish community of Palestine).

As the de facto government of the state-on-the-way, it was recognized as the official representative of the Jewish community and world Jewry vis-à-vis the League of Nations, the British Mandate government, and foreign governments. Its major political thrust was to influence the British Mandate administration to interpret liberally the clause in the Churchill White Paper of 1922, which linked Jewish immigration to the "economic absorptive capacity" of the country.

The Jewish Agency was also responsible for the Yishuv's internal affairs: immigration - allocating certificates supplied by the Mandate Authority - and resettlement of new immigrants, the building of new settlements, economic development, education and culture, hospitals and health services.

The Jewish Agency has been pivotal to Israel's remarkable growth. As the only global Jewish partnership organization, linking Jews around the world with Israel as the focal point, it continues to play a central role in the lives of countless Jews. Major activities include the rescue of Jews in distress, facilitating Aliyah and absorption, Jewish Zionist education, and building a global Jewish community.

For further information contact:
Michael Jankelowitz,
Liaison to the Foreign Press, Jewish Agency for Israel
Mobile: +972-52-6130220
Voice-mail: +972-2-620-2780
website: www.jewishagency.org




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12 Aug 2009 / 22 Av 5769 0