World Zionist Congress

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The World Zionist Congress (Hebrew: הקונגרס הציוני העולמי‎‎ HaKongres HaTsioni HaOlami) established by Theodor Herzl, is the supreme organ of the World Zionist Organization (WZO) and its legislative authority. It elects the officers and decides on the policies of the WZO and the Jewish Agency.[1] The first World Zionist Congress was held in Basel, Switzerland in 1897.

Any Jew over age 18 who belongs to a Zionist association is eligible to vote, and the number of elected delegates to the Congress is 500.[2][3] 38% of the delegates are allocated to Israel, 29% to the United States of America, and 33% to the remainder of the countries of the Diaspora.[1] In addition there are about 100 delegates which are appointed by International Organizations (e.g. B'nai B'rith, see below) affiliated with WZO.[3]

After the First Zionist Congress in 1897, the Zionist Congress met every year until 1901, then every second year from 1903 to 1913 and 1921 to 1939. Until 1946, the Congress was held every two years in various European cities, save for interruptions during the two World Wars. Their goal was to build an infrastructure to further the cause of Jewish settlement in Palestine. Since the Second World War, meetings have been held approximately every four years. Also, since the creation of the State of Israel, the Congress has met every four or five years in Jerusalem.[4]

At the 34th World Zionist Congress in 2002, the Green Zionist Alliance became the first environmental organization to ever hold a seat at the World Zionist Congress.[5]

The 36th Congress was held in June 2010 in Jerusalem and Avraham Duvdevani from the modern-Orthodox “Mizrahi” camp was elected as Chair.[6] Natan Sharansky was elected as head of the Jewish Agency for Israel which was separated again from the position of WZO Chair.[6]

The upcoming 38th World Zionist Congress will take place in 2020.

Representatives at the World Zionist Congress[edit]

The World Zionist Congress includes representatives of Zionist World Unions, Women's Zionist Organizations with Special Status and International Jewish Organizations.[1]

Zionist World Unions[edit]

Zionist participants in the World Zionist Congress are free to form Brit Olamit or Zionist World Unions (ideological groupings), which are somewhat like political parties. While Israeli political parties can participate in the Congress, brits are also organized and voted into the Congress by non-Israelis, making the Congress a multinational deliberative body for the Jewish diaspora. However, as aliyah has brought Jews to Israel from other countries, Israeli representation in the legislature has increased at the expense of non-Israeli Jewish diaspora representation. A Brit Olamit (World Union) must have representation in at least five countries to send a delegation to the Congress.

There are currently six Zionist World Unions (with full voting rights):

Zionist Organizations with Special Status[edit]

Two women's organizations have special status in the Zionist Organization and have full voting rights:

  • WIZO - is an international, non-party Zionist body, which receives global representation by virtue of an agreement entered into in 1964.
  • Hadassah – received special status by virtue of a decision of the Zionist General Council, in 1994.[1] (duplicate?)

International Jewish Organizations[edit]

The international Jewish organizations have also been represented in the Zionist Congress since 1972, provided that they accept the Jerusalem Program,[7] even if not all their members are declared Zionists. These bodies have limited voting rights - they do not vote on matters of candidature and elections to the institutions of the WZO.[1]

The following are the International Jewish Organizations (limited voting rights):

Other Participants in Congress (Advisors, Observers)[edit]

  • In addition to the delegates with full voting rights participating in Congress, there are also participants in an advisory capacity which can participate in debates but have no voting rights. These may consist of office holders such as members of the Zionist Executive, members of the Zionist General Council who were not elected as delegates to Congress, Chairs of the Zionist Federations, judicial office holders - the President of the Zionist Supreme Court, the Attorney, the Comptroller and representatives of the Aliyah Movement.[1]
  • Observers with no speaking or voting rights can be invited by the Zionist Executive or the Congress Presidium.

The Course of the Congress[edit]

The Zionist Congress is conducted by the Congress Presidium. Congress deliberations are divided into five stages:[1]

  • Opening of the Congress, including a speech by the Chairman of the Executive, and other speeches determined in the agenda, election of the Congress Presidium, the report of the President of the Zionist Supreme Court on the election results, reports of the members of the Zionist Executive in supplement to the printed report, election of the Congress committees.
  • Election of the new Executive, according to the proposal of the Congress Standing Committee.
  • Meetings of the committees.
  • Reports of the committees and voting on the draft resolutions presented by them. The report of the Standing Committee and voting on its proposals for members of the Zionist General Council, the Comptroller and the Legal Institutions.
  • Congress closing ceremony.

2015 United States Elections for World Zionist Congress[edit]

The United States will send 145 delegates to the 2015 Congress with 11 slates (including two newly qualified) competing in elections held during January 13 through April 30, 2015.[8][9] Total number of seats won are shown in parenthesis after the list name and description:

The U.S. slates (parties) include:

Some of the older and larger American Zionist groups, such as Hadassah and Emunah, do not run and are automatically assigned seats.


The Zionist Congress, later to become the World Zionist Congress, was held at intervals of 1 year (1897-1901), then 2 years (1903-1939) until the outbreak of the Second World War, with an eight-year break (1913-1921) due to the First World War.

Number Name Location Year
1 Zionist Congress, FirstFirst Zionist Congress Basle, Switzerland 1897
2 Zionist Congress, SecondSecond Zionist Congress Basle, Switzerland 1898
3 Zionist Congress, ThirdThird Zionist Congress Basle, Switzerland 1899
4 Zionist Congress, FourthFourth Zionist Congress London, England 1900
5 Zionist Congress, FifthFifth Zionist Congress Basle, Switzerland 1901
6 Zionist Congress, SixthSixth Zionist Congress Basle, Switzerland 1903
7 Zionist Congress, SeventhSeventh Zionist Congress Basle, Switzerland 1905
8 Zionist Congress, EighthEighth Zionist Congress The Hague, Netherlands 1907
9 Zionist Congress, NinthNinth Zionist Congress Hamburg, Germany 1909
10 Zionist Congress, TenthTenth Zionist Congress Basle, Switzerland 1911
11 Zionist Congress, EleventhEleventh Zionist Congress Vienna, Austria 1913
12 Zionist Congress, TwelfthTwelfth Zionist Congress Carlsbad (Karlovy Vary), Czechoslovakia 1921
13 Zionist Congress, ThirteenthThirteenth Zionist Congress Carlsbad (Karlovy Vary), Czechoslovakia 1923
14 Zionist Congress, FourteenthFourteenth Zionist Congress Vienna, Austria 1925
15 Zionist Congress, FifteenthFifteenth Zionist Congress Basle, Switzerland 1927
16 Zionist Congress, SixteenthSixteenth Zionist Congress Zürich, Switzerland 1929
17 Zionist Congress, SeventeenthSeventeenth Zionist Congress Basle, Switzerland 1931
18 Zionist Congress, EighteenthEighteenth Zionist Congress Prague, Czechoslovakia 1933
19 Zionist Congress, NineteenthNineteenth Zionist Congress Lucerne, Switzerland 1935
20 Zionist Congress, TwentiethTwentieth Zionist Congress Zürich, Switzerland 1937
21 Zionist Congress, Twenty-firstTwenty-first Zionist Congress Geneva, Switzerland 1939
22 Zionist Congress, Twenty-secondTwenty-second Zionist Congress Basle, Switzerland 1946
23 Zionist Congress, Twenty-thirdTwenty-third Zionist Congress Jerusalem, Israel 1951

Theodor Herzl acted as chairperson. The Congress was attended by some 200 participants who formulated the Zionist platform, known as the "Basel programme", and established the Zionist Organization (ZO). In contrast with the older Hibbat Zion movement, the ZO took a clear stance in favour of political Zionism, stating in its programme that

"Zionism seeks for the Jewish people a publicly recognized legally secured homeland in Palestine."

Herzl wrote in his diary,

"Were I to sum up the Basle Congress in a word - which I shall guard against pronouncing publicly - it would be this: At Basle I founded the Jewish State."[17]

The Twenty-third Zionist Congress was the first to be held after the establishment of the State of Israel, and the first held in Jerusalem, which would become the norm. It was opened at the graveside of Theodor Herzl, whose remains had been moved from Vienna and reburied on the top of a hill in Jerusalem that was renamed after him, Mount Herzl. The Congress issued the "Jerusalem Program", placing its main focus on the newly created state as the central unifying element for the Jewish people.[18]

Ruth Popkin was the first woman to be Chair of the Presidium and President of the World Zionist Congress, being elected to both positions in 1987.[23]

The 35th World Zionist Congress was held in June 2006,[24] where Zeev Bielski of Kadima was elected WZO Chairman.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Zionist Congress". World Zionist Organization. Retrieved 21 Feb 2015. 
  2. ^ "Rules for the Election of Delegates to the Zionist Congress" (Microsoft Word doc). World Zionist Organization. June 2004 [1976]. Retrieved 16 January 2014. 
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ "The Zionist Century | Concepts | Zionist Congresses". Archived from the original on August 21, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-29. 
  5. ^ Jerusalem Post: Greens represented at Zionist Congress
  6. ^ a b Jerusalem Post: WZO gets 1st religious-Zionist chairman
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  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Zionist Congress: First to Twelfth Zionist Congress (1897 - 1921)". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Mitchell Geoffrey Bard, Moshe Schwartz (2005). 1001 Facts Everyone Should Know about Israel. Jason Aronson, Inc. pp. 5–8. ISBN 978-0-7425-4358-4. Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
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  20. ^,6671447&hl=en
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  23. ^ Tigay, Alan (2015-01-05). "Ruth Popkin, Hadassah past national president, dies at 101 | Obituaries". Jewish Journal. Retrieved 2015-04-14. 
  24. ^ Archived from the original on October 1, 2007. Retrieved July 12, 2012.  Missing or empty |title= (help)