FAQ: World Zionist Congress and the National Institutions

FAQ on the World Zionist Congress and the National Institutions – World Zionist Organization (WZO), Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael (World JNF), Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), and Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal (UIA)

How does the World Zionist Congress work and what types of decisions does it take?

The make-up of the World Zionist Congress, the result of the selection of delegates from all over the world, dictates the relative strength of the different caucuses across the political and religious spectrum. Any caucus can then bring resolutions to the Congress regarding both policy and operational aspects of its work. During the actual Congress gathering resolutions are deliberated upon in committees and then the plenum, with votes taken at the end of the Congress session. Any resolutions not addressed by the closing of the Congress are sent to the Va’ad Hapoel (Zionist General Council for further deliberation and vote. The Va'ad Hapoel meets every year between Congresses to take up previous and new resolutions brought forth by the various caucuses. The make-up of the Va'ad Hapoel is roughly one member for every  four delegates elected to the Congress. For example, if a caucus has 20 members at the Zionist Congress, they will appoint five of them to be their representatives to the Va’ad Hapoel for the subsequent five years.

 

Any decisions taken by these bodies are then sent to Zionist Executive for implementation.

 

How are the various caucuses constituted?

 

They generally reflect either a religious or political identity and include delegates from all over the world. For example, the Hatikvah Slate members have traditionally sat with the Labor Party and Meretz delegates from Israel, and like-minded delegates from other countries.

 

What is the relationship between the “national Institution organizations” and each other? What are the lines of governance?

Here is where it gets interesting and more complicated, all at the same time.

 

The Zionist Congress elects the Va'ad Hapoel members and all of the other related WZO entities.  

 

The Congress elects the members of World JNF Board of Directors and the WZO Va'ad Hapoel serves as the General Assembly of World JNF, that is the highest decision making body of World JNF.

 

So it is easy to see that the WZO has 100% governance responsibility and control for both the WZO and World JNF.

 

The WZO also has 50% governance control over both JAFI and UIA, with the other 50% going to representatives from Jewish Federations of North America and the UIA itself.

 

What bodies carry out the decisions taken by the Congress and how are they constituted? Are they compromised of only professionals or do they include lay people, like those who attend the Congress?

Each of the National Institutions has various governing bodies comprised of a combination of professionals and lay people. In every case, diaspora and Israeli lay people sit on Executive Committees, Boards of Governors and Boards of Directors of the four National Institutions. It is not always simple or easy to overcome the tendency of the professionals to want to make all of the decisions, but well-organized lay people can make a difference, especially when it comes to implementation of Congress resolutions.