The Odessa Committee, officially known as the Society for the Support of Jewish Farmers and Artisans in Syria and Palestine, was a charitable, pre-Zionist organization in the Russian Empire, which supported emigration to the Biblical Land of Israel, then a part of the Ottoman Empire.
The pogroms of 1881-1884 and the May Laws of 1882 gave impetus to political activism among Russian Jews and mass emigration. More than two million Jews fled Russia between 1881 and 1920, the vast majority emigrating to the United States. The Tsarist government sporadically encouraged Jewish emigration. In 1882, members of Bilu and Hovevei Zion made what came to be known the First Aliyah to Palestine, then a part of the Ottoman Empire. Initially, these organizations were not official, and in order to attain a legally recognized framework, a Jewish organization had to be registered as a charity in various European countries and the United States that provided most of the funding. After arduous negotiations, the Russian government approved the establishment of the "Society for the Support of Jewish Farmers and Artisans in Syria and Palestine" early in 1890. It was based in Odessa (now in Ukraine), headed by Leon Pinsker, and dedicated to practical aspects of establishing Jewish agricultural settlements in the Palestine.
Before the First Zionist Congress in 1897, the Odessa Committee counted over 4,000 members. When the Zionist Organization was founded (1897), most of the Hovevei Zion societies joined it. The Odessa Committee continued to function until it was closed in 1913.
- The Hovevei Zion in Russia-The Odessa committee 1889-1890
- Shafir, Gershon, Land, Labor and the Origins of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, 1882-1914, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1996, p.46
- Draft of the Statutes of the Odessa Committee at www.zionistarchives.org.il