The Jewish Agency for Israel

With courage mirrored in personal commitment and moral passion, The Jewish Agency for Israel has undertaken the task of redeeming and resettling our brothers and sisters from the Soviet Union as they travel upon the road to freedom…. This award is in recognition of the continued responsibility of The Jewish Agency for Israel to save lives and assure the Jewish future.  

The Jewish Agency for Israel building, Jerusalem. The Jewish Agency for Israel ©, Perry Bindelglas

The Jewish Agency for Israel building, Jerusalem. The Jewish Agency for Israel ©, Perry Bindelglas

At the heart of the Jewish Agency for Israel lies the desire and ambition to unite all Jewish people to their religion, culture, and each other. In its initial form, the Jewish Agency sought to bring as many Jews as possible to Israel from the Diaspora (defined as the body of Jews living in countries outside Israel); today, the Agency seeks to enrich, improve, and strengthen the global Jewish community. 

The Jewish Agency for Israel started in 1929, with a goal to create a Jewish National Home in Palestine, and was considered the official representation of the Jewish community throughout the world. The organization works to “ensure the future of a connected, committed, global Jewish People with a strong Israel as its center,” with a mission 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.” 

Since its inception, the Jewish Agency has worked with European Jews through the years of persecution by Hitler during the Second World War; it supported as many people as possible and secured their immigration into Palestine. After the war, Palestine was partitioned, and with the help of the Jewish Agency, the state of Israel was created in 1948. When this happened, they “relinquished many of its functions to the new government, but retained responsibility for immigration, land settlement, youth work, and world Jewry.” Since then, it has helped more Jews in Eastern Europe and Africa find their way to Israel. 

At the time the Jewish Agency for Israel received the Roger E. Joseph Prize, it was involved in helping Jewish people in Russia. Under communism in the Soviet Union, Jews were essentially cut off from their religion and culture and forced to assimilate into a common Russian culture, leaving Judaism behind. While thousands of Soviet Jews did manage to emigrate, when communism eventually collapsed, many Russian Jews had lost most of their knowledge of Judaism and its traditions. The Jewish Agency aided in an aliyah (the immigration of Jews to Israel, either as individuals or in groups) that brought a wave of nearly one million Jewish people to Israel. 

Today, the Jewish Agency for Israel is still working to fulfill its mission. Realizing that social activism is as important today as when the organization was founded, it offers programs to young Jewish people, allowing them to live and work in both Israel and the Diaspora communities, helping those who are disadvantaged build better lives while, at the same time, strengthening their own connection to their faith and culture. 

After more than 80 years, the Jewish Agency for Israel remains an organization committed to a strong global Jewish community, responding to crises worldwide, and offering support so that every Jewish person feels connected to one another and to Judaism.