In this week’s blog post, we focus on Youth Aliyah (Aliyat Hano’ar), an organisation founded in 1933 to provide young people with vocational training in Palestine.
The formation of Youth Aliyah
The first Youth Aliyah group consisted of 12 children from Germany, who arrived in Palestine in the autumn of 1932. The idea of providing young people with vocational training in Palestine came from Recha Freier of Berlin, who was aware that there would be no future for Jews in Germany, even before the Nazis rose to power. She appealed to the Histadrut in Palestine, the Zionist movement in Germany and Henrietta Szold, director of the Social Welfare Department of the Va’ad Le’umi, to bring the motives of Youth Aliyah into reality “bringing Jewish youth to Palestine and training them for a pioneering life on farming settlements.”
Whilst Freier was responsible for organising activities in Germany, Henrietta Szold, from the United States, oversaw activities in Palestine. The work in Palestine was arranged in cooperation with the Jewish Agency, the Va’ad Le’umi and the kibbutz movement. Founder of the Hadassah women’s organisation, Szold regarded all of the children of Youth Aliyah as her sons and daughters. After visiting Berlin in the summer of 1933, she became director of the Youth Aliyah Bureau in Jerusalem.
“Our movement is founded on three elements – work, study and communal life. Each of these statements is equally important, and this is not just for the sake of Youth Aliyah but for the building of the country which is served by Youth Aliyah.” Statement made by Henrietta Szold on 6 February, 1940
Constitution of the Society of Children and Youth Aliyah Committee for Great Britain and Eire [MS313 A1071/2/1 Folder 2]
Youth Aliyah offers a broad-based education which stresses individual advancement, social awareness, and commitment, team work, and educational pluralism. An effort is made to establish an ongoing dialogue between teacher and student.
World War Two
By the mid-1930s the organisation’s activities had expanded and as the decade progressed it rescued more than 5000 children from Nazi Germany and Austria. By the end of World War Two, Youth Aliyah had rescued 15,000 children, survivors of the Holocaust. Emissaries were sent from Palestine to seek out children roaming the streets or sheltered by Christian families and institutions. This rescue operation was joined by Jewish soldiers serving in the British Army. The children were placed in homes and temporary shelters in or near camps in western and central Europe. The organisation gave these children the feeling of home and family, as well as seeing to their psychological needs and economic requirements.
Between 1945 and 1948, a special arm of Youth Aliyah handled the schooling of young survivors in temporary shelters in Europe, and arranged for their passage to Palestine. Youth Aliyah educators were left to restore youngsters scarred by the scenes of war, a faith in humanity.
In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, Youth Aliyah took many thousand orphans to Palestine as illegal immigrants.
Foundation of the state of Israel
After the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948, Moshe Kol, the head of Youth Aliyah in 1949, visited Morocco and arranged for the aliyah of 6000 youngsters. Among the 70,000 Youth Aliyah wards absorbed between 1948 and 1960, close to 70% were from Islamic countries. The associations Hadassah (U.S.A. and Canada), Wizo, Wizo-Canada, Mizrachi Women (today Amit), Pioneer Women (today Na’amat), and Youth Aliyah committees in Great Britain, Switzerland, France, Holland, Italy, Scandinavia, and many more, were invaluable in helping Youth Aliyah meet its financial requirements. This generosity led to many new youth villages being established. To meet the increasing needs, Youth Aliyah organised special education programmes, such as Hebrew language courses, and training centres for agriculture and industry, as well as transforming Neurim Youth Village into a major institution for technological training.
Youth Aliyah gave these children new lifestyles that helped ease the passage and adjustment to a new culture, for them and their families that followed.
Many of the projects undertaken by Youth Aliyah were funded by the Jewish Agency and it became a department of this organisation.
In 1972, the Youth Aliyah was asked to make a central effort in absorbing youth from distressed levels of Israeili society, while at the same time, continuing its work in absorbing new immigrants and children of new immigrants.
One out of every ten adults in Israel has been connected in his youth with Youth Aliyah. Its graduates have achieved the highest levels in politics, science, technology, the armed forces, agriculture, and other spheres.
A special framework for Ethiopian youth arriving without their parents was set up in 1984. To date, some 3000 youngsters, 1000 of them parentless, have been absorbed in special programs, “Operation Moses”, as the rescue of Ethiopian Jewry has been called, has posed a great challenge for the Jewish people as a whole, and for the Jewish Aliyah in particular.
Youth Aliyah today
The organisation has slowly shifted its focus away from facilitating aliyah and focussed fully on caring for children at risk in Israel. Youth Aliyah added the words ‘Child Rescue’ to its name in order to reflect their primary work of rescuing children and young people from a life trauma, and in many cases, severe danger. They do not help people ‘make aliyah’ to Israel as the organisation’s name somewhat implies, but Freier’s original mission remains at the heart of everything the organisation does.
Today, Youth Aliyah Child Rescue works tirelessly to bring as many vulnerable, traumatised children as possible, to safety in their youth villages. Youth Aliyah Child Rescue provides opportunity, empowering young people to climb from poverty and to become fulfilled and invaluable members of Israeli society. This concept is so fundamental to the organisation’s work, that in 2019, they updated their branding so it was reflected visually.
About the collection
The archive contains a wealth of resources for those wishing to study the workings of an organisation whose prime aim was to rescue children from persecution and to provide a better life for them. As well as committee minute books, and Youth Aliyah, the archive contains a wealth of photographs that reflect the educational training provided, and of the villages constructed.