Jewish Agency for Israel (JAI)

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JEWISH AGENCY FOR ISRAEL (JAI)

The Jewish Agency for Palestine was officially created in 1929. Its name comes from the text of the 1922 British mandate calling for "a Jewish agency." It became the Jewish Agency for Israel after 1948. In 1929, the organization was opened to non-Zionist Jewish groups and also became the executive arm of the World Zionist Organization. Numerous non-Zionist personalities, including Albert Einstein and Leon Blum, belonged to the Jewish Agency. Created while Palestine was under British mandate, the JAI cooperated with the British administration to find solutions to the problems of Jewish immigration.

In the 1930s the agency supervised the transfer of Jewish capital from Germany to Palestine, as well as the immigration—both legal and illegal—of thousands of European Jews. But faced with restrictive measures regarding the immigration of the Jews into Palestine, the executive committee of the Jewish Agency decided, in 1939, to harden its position regarding British authority. In May 1941, in the context of the war against Nazi Germany, the Jewish Agency and Haganah decided to create the PALMACH (Hebrew acronym for "shock brigades"), some of which would be merged into the Jewish Brigade of the British Army and would participate in combat against the German Army. At the end of January 1943, faced with the persecutions of the European Jews of Central Europe, the Jewish Agency created a "Rescue Committee," directed by Yitzhak Gruenbaum, to help Jews leave their country to go to a neutral one or to Palestine.

In December 1946, approving the positions of the Jewish Agency, the Twenty-Second Zionist Congress designated David Ben-Gurion to head a defense committee. After the creation of the State of Israel in May 1948, the Jewish Agency concentrated its activities on immigration and the integration of the masses of new immigrants. In 1954 the Israeli government and the executive committee of the World Zionist Organization confirmed the role of the Jewish Agency for immigration into Israel. The Jewish Agency also organizes the rescue of Diaspora Jews in danger and retains some authority regarding agricultural resettlement. It spends a large portion of its budget on educational and cultural activities related to its mission of increasing the commitment of world Jewry to the State of Israel.

SEE ALSO Ben-Gurion, David; Haganah.