Jewish Agency (Sochnut)

Jewish Agency (Hebr. Ha-Sochnut ha-Jehudit le-Eretz Israel, Pol. Agencja Żydowska) – a non-governmental institution with seat in Jerusalem, currently the executive body of the World Zionist Organisation. In July 1922, it was recognised as the representation of Jews before the Mandate authorities, the government of Great Britain, and the League of Nations on the basis of the mandate issued by the League of Nations. Until 1929, all members of the Jewish Agency were Zionists. In 1923, the World Zionist Organisation sought to encourage non-Zionist activist to join the Agency, with their efforts eventually coming to fruition in August 1929. The Agency’s activities were managed by: the Board, the administrative committee, and the executive; parity between Zionists and non-Zionists was to be maintained in each administrative body. The institution was headed by the Chairman of the World Zionist Organisation.

A representation of the JA in Poland was established in July 1929. It was administered by the Council and the Polish Committee, composed in half of representatives of Zionist groups and in half of representatives of other communities. The attitude towards the cooperation of Zionists and non-Zionists in the AJ became a bone of contention between the Al ha-Mishmar and the Et Livnot factions of the Zionist Organisation in Poland. The role of the representative body of the JA before the Polish authorities and the British Consulate was performed by the Palestinian Office. The JA seat in Poland was located in Warsaw at Rymarska Street. Among the members of its presidium were Heszel Farbstein, Icchak Grimbaum, Ozjasz Thon, A. Reiss, and W. Wawelberg. The agency took part in organising protests against the British immigration policy in Palestine.

During World War II and immediately after its end, it made efforts to abolish immigration restrictions imposed on Jews wishing to migrate to Palestine and participated in the organisation of legal and illegal immigration. After the creation of the State of Israel in May 1948, the JA handed over many of its functions to government agencies. In accordance with the decision of the General Zionist Council of August 1948, it was to continue to deal with immigration issues, land management, and campaigning for support for Israel abroad, which was accepted by the Zionist Congress and the Knesset (parliament). In 1954, pursuant to an agreement between the JA and the government of Israel, the WZO – essentially equivalent to the JA – was recognised as an official representative body of international Jewry. At the 23rd Zionist Congress in July 1992, disputes arose concerning the project of full unification of the structures of the WZO and the JA. At the meeting of the General Council in June 1995, Abraham Burg, a supporter of the unification project, was elected chairman of both structures.

Currently, its task is to promote and organise immigration of Jews to Israel on a global scale, to support the integration of immigrants into the Israeli society, and to raise funds for this purpose.

Natalia Aleksiun

Cited after: Tomaszewski J., Żbikowski A., Żydzi w Polsce. Dzieje i kultura. Leksykon, Warsaw 2001. 



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