Jewish Colonization Association (ICA)

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JEWISH COLONIZATION ASSOCIATION (ICA), philanthropic association to assist Jews in depressed economic circumstances or countries of persecution to emigrate and settle elsewhere in productive employment, founded by Baron Maurice de *Hirsch in 1891. It was incorporated in London as a joint-stock company whose other shareholders were Baron Edmond de *Rothschild, J. *Goldsmid, Sir Ernest Joseph *Cassel, F.D. *Mocatta, Benjamin S. Cohen, S.H. Goldschmidt, and Salomon *Reinach. In 1893 de Hirsch's shares were distributed between the *Anglo-Jewish Association, and the Jewish communities of Brussels, Berlin, and Frankfurt. The basic endowment was later increased to £8,000,000. The association's offices were located in Paris until transferred to London in 1949. De Hirsch was president until his death in 1896. He was succeeded by Salomon Goldsmid (1896), Narcisse *Leven (1896–1919), Franz *Philippson (1919–29), Lionel Leonard *Cohen (1929–34), Sir Osmond d'Avigdor *Goldsmid (1934–40), Leonard Montefiore (1940–47), and Sir Henry Joseph d'Avigdor *Goldsmid (1947– ). De Hirsch's immediate plan envisaged a mass emigration of the Jews from countries in Europe, where they were persecuted, to *Argentina, though circumstances forced ica to give priority to the various needs of Jews in Europe.


Emigration was the cornerstone of ica's activity throughout its history. From 1904 to 1914 ica established 507 emigration committees in Russia, and a central office in St. Petersburg, with the approval of the Russian government. In New York the Hirsch Fund established a trade school in 1891 in order to prepare new immigrants for the task of earning a living. The large-scale immigration into America in the early 20th century led ica and the Jewish Agricultural and Industrial Aid Society jointly to establish the Removal Committee. This organization linked immigrants in America with their relatives remaining in Europe. Information bureaus sprang up all over Europe, and by 1912 the Removal Committee had helped over 70,000 immigrants. In 1922 this organization was dissolved. After World War i many countries closed their doors to immigration, and new conditions demanded a new machinery. ica's initiative led to the creation of immigration societies in Canada, Argentina, and Brazil. In 1921 ica called a conference in Brussels and in 1922 in Paris for the establishment of a united emigration association. The conferences failed, but in 1925 the United Evacuation Committee was formed by ica jointly with Emigdirekt and the *American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (jdc). In 1927 *Hias (Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society), ica, and Emigdirekt founded a new association, *Hicem, which had established 57 committees in 21 countries by 1937. In 1928 ica formed an emigration bureau in Moscow to supervise emigration from Russia, and at the instigation of ica all the private organizations dealing with emigrants jointly set up a committee for their protection, with its seat in Geneva. From 1933 to 1939 ica spent £800,000 on the emigration of Jews from Germany.

aid and settlement

Eastern Europe


In 1898 ica began a detailed investigation into the position of the Jews in Russia and published the results in 1904 in the Recueil des matériaux sur la situation économique des israélites de Russie. In the different areas of Jewish settlement there, ica officials worked to improve local farming methods, introduce new crops, and establish cooperatives, with the result that output rose considerably. During World War i the agricultural population in Russia was reduced by one-quarter. By 1930, due to ica's efforts, 43 of the former colonies had been reestablished and supported a population of over 30,000. In the late 1920s ica also successfully established a few thousand families on 50 new colonies founded on land provided by the government in south Ukraine.

In Poland ica founded and supported eight agricultural cooperatives, and by 1930 had purchased some 2,500 hectares of land for the enlargement of existing small holdings. In Romania, ica repaired the wartime damage and in 1930 established a new colony in southern Bessarabia.


By 1914 ica had established or supported some 40 technical and agricultural schools in Russia, ran adult education courses, and subsidized Jewish primary education. After the war ica restored the majority of these schools to their prewar position, supporting them until they could exist independently. In Romania, ica was subsidizing approximately 46 schools by 1914. In Galicia a number of technical and agricultural schools were founded, the most well-known being the agricultural school in Slobodka-Lesna, established on land acquired by ica in 1900. The school flourished until it was damaged and closed during World War i. In postwar Poland ica also reorganized the school system and introduced institutions for adult education in the centers of Jewish population.

cooperative loan and savings banks

ica established a network of cooperative loan and savings banks in Russia for farmers and artisans. From 1905 the Russian government allowed their unrestricted development and they spread rapidly, flourishing until World War i. By 1914, 680 such funds with over 450,000 members, and covering a sum of 40,000,000 roubles, had been organized and financed by ica, a pioneer in this field. ica resumed this work in 1922, in conjunction with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, creating in 1924 the American Joint Reconstruction Foundation (ajrf). Its main aim was to continue the prewar work by supporting existing credit funds and creating new ones. In 1924 there were 322 such institutions in the 12 countries where the foundation worked. By 1930 the ajrf was supporting 760 loan banks with 325,000 members and a capital of 3,555,000 dollars. The association also established commercial banks for middle-class clients from 1930, supported workers' cooperatives, and rebuilt housing destroyed during the war. World War ii ended all this activity, and in 1951 the ajrf was liquidated.


In 1889 ica aided Jewish immigrants in Argentina who purchased approximately 100,000 hectares of land in Santa Fé. They established the colony of Moisésville, and created a number of new settlements in the provinces of Santa Fé, Entre Ríos, La Pampa, and Buenos Aires, mainly before World War i. The colonists were given equipment, instruction, and credit, and a network of schools was established. By 1930, the peak of ica settlement in Argentina, over 20,000 colonists farmed approximately 500,000 hectares of land, nearly half of which was owned by settlers who became independent. Progress was hampered by insufficient land for extensive cultivation and the unfavorable location of many of the colonies. The settlers attacked a system which permitted the repayment of debts and independence only over a long period of time; cooperatives also led a struggle against the ica bureaucracy. During the 1930s several hundred families from Germany were settled on the land, but town life attracted many, and by 1966 only 8,000 Jews remained in the ica colonies, the population there being largely non-Jewish. Nearly all of the settlers by then owned their land and ica's role in Argentina was rapidly diminishing.


In 1904 ica acquired land in the Rio Grande do Sul area, and a small colony was established for settlers from Bessarabia. The colony did not prosper and in 1928 was virtually liquidated. A further colony of 93,000 hectares was established in 1909 in Quatro Irmãos, but disintegration began before World War i. ica tried to revive the colony by resettlement, but political troubles combined with mismanagement led to its liquidation in 1965. One further attempt at Brazilian settlement failed in the 1930s when ica selected families in Germany for settlement on 2,000 hectares purchased in the State of Rio de Janeiro. From 1953 the Brazilian government followed a more liberal immigration policy, but potential settlers were lacking. By 1960 large areas of land held by ica had been liquidated. Meanwhile ica had established educational institutions and credit facilities in the main centers of Jewish settlement and from 1954 onward continued to support the latter in conjunction with the American Joint Distribution Committee.

United States

In 1891 Baron de Hirsch established the Baron de Hirsch *Fund with the aim of aiding Jewish immigrants to the United States and promoting the establishment of rural centers there. The fund founded the agricultural school of Woodbine in New Jersey and several others, and became the main organ used by ica for its own work in the U.S. In 1900 the two organizations jointly established the Jewish Agricultural and Industrial Aid Society (later the *Jewish Agricultural Society), which acquired land in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut in order to settle Jewish immigrants on the land. By World War i, 78 farms had been established. The main work of ica in the United States was not, however, this small-scale colonization but the provision of credit facilities for the immigrants. By 1930, ica had distributed over 10,000 loans. Work in the educational field was less successful, and Woodbine was closed down during the interwar years. By the outbreak of World War ii ica's activities in the United States had virtually ceased.


In 1892 ica established the colony Hirsch in the province of *Saskatchewan in *Canada, where some Jewish families had already settled in the 1880s, and aided individual immigrants arriving from Russia in the early 20th century. Until 1903 the Jewish Agricultural Society of New York managed ica's colonization work in Canada and several new colonies were established in *Manitoba and Saskatchewan. In 1909 their supervision passed to a Canadian committee formed for this purpose. By 1910 ica had founded or aided five main colonies with a population of 777 on an area of 49,914 acres, and a few smaller centers. The Canadian government refused to selllarger expanses of land, blocking the way to a more extensive settlement. The economic position after World War i led to the disintegration of the smaller centers. ica tried to expand the more successful colonies, establishing 40 farms for new immigrants by 1930. After World War ii, ica settled a number of people from displaced persons' camps in the fertile Niagara peninsula and south Ontario, and by 1960 approximately 120 families were farming under the auspices of ica.

Ereẓ Israel

From 1896 ica provided financial aid for independent colonists in Gederah, Ḥaderah, Nes Ẓiyyonah, and Mishmar ha-Yarden. In 1899 Baron Edmond de Rothschild transferred to ica the colonies under his care, and those he himself had founded, providing 15,000,000 francs to finance their further development. He presided over an administrative body, the Palestine Commission, formed in Paris. In the Rothschild colonies ica introduced new forms of cultivation and other reforms. ica also continued its previous independent work and purchased land in Lower Galilee in order to found new settlements, Jabneel (Yemma), Bet Gan, Mesḥa (Kefar Tavor), Sejerah (Ilaniyyah), and others. Despite progress, ica's work was continuously attacked by Zionist opponents who accused it of inept management, wasted funds, and diverse aims. During World War i Rothschild realized that impending political changes necessitated the formation of a stronger organization and established the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association (*pica) in 1923. This returned administration. ica resumed work in Palestine after the 1929 riots, establishing Emica jointly with the Emergency Fund. Plans for draining the Ḥuleh swamps were stopped by the outbreak of war, but Emica reconstructed Be'er Toviyyah and founded other settlements: Kefar Warburg, and later Nir Banim, Sedeh Moshe, Kefar Maimon, and Lachish. In 1955 Emica became "ica in Israel," as Israel became the main field of activity. Jointly with the Jewish Agency, ica participated in the development of Upper Galilee and in a project to assist some 30 immigrant settlements. In addition to credit facilities for agriculture, ica provides extensive grants for educational institutions in Israel, among them Mikveh Israel, ORT, and the agricultural faculty of the Hebrew University.

Cyprus and Turkey

In 1897, at the request of the British government, ica transferred 33 Russian refugee families from England to Cyprus, establishing three small colonies there. This venture failed and after a few years the settlers re-emigrated. In 1891 ica bought land near Smyrna in Turkey, and established an agricultural training center, Or Yehudah, on an area totaling 3,000 hectares by 1902. Owing to numerous difficulties the center was closed in 1926. A group of Romanian Jews in Anatolia were assisted by ica in the early 20th century, and a small-scale Russian immigration led ica to establish an immigration bureau in Constantinople in 1910. ica also bought land in Anatolia and Thrace, and founded Mesillah Ḥadashah and two other agricultural settlements for several hundred families. During World War i the settlers were forced to leave, and in 1928 the colonies were practically liquidated, only the immigration bureau remaining to assist migrants in transit for Ereẓ Israel.

world war ii and after

ica found new fields of work as older ones dwindled in importance, Israel becoming the major concern. ica also began to help North African Jewry, developing credit facilities in Tunisia and Morocco, in conjunction with the jdc, and founding an agricultural training center in Morocco. In 1952 ica and the Alliance Israélite Universelle jointly founded the Société Agricole pour les Israélites Marocains. From 1965 ica cooperated with the United Hias Service, contributing substantially to the "Special Rescue Program" for the transportation of emigrants from Eastern Europe and North Africa to Australia, Canada, and France. There ica organizes mortgage facilities, and in Kenya provides loans for agriculture. Miscellaneous Jewish institutions in Britain, France, Belgium, Israel, Argentina, and Brazil receive financial assistance as in the past, special attention being paid to education and culture.


Rapport de l'administration centrale au conseil d'administration (1898–1931); Atlas des colonies et domaines de la Jewish Colonization Association en République Argentine et au Brésil (1914); Le Baron Maurice de Hirsch et la Jewish Colonization Association; à l'occasion du centenaire de la naissance du Baron de Hirsch (1932); Jewish Colonization Association; Its Work in the Argentine Republic, 18911941 (1942); M.D. Winsberg, Colonia Barón Hirsch; A Jewish Agricultural Colony in Argentina (1964); K. Grunwald, Tuerkenhirsch (1966).

[Ann Ussishkin]

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Jewish Colonization Association (ICA)

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Jewish Colonization Association (ICA)