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Volume 9, No.1 Fall1990 BOOK REVIEWS 99 Chosen Instrument: The Jewish Agency in the First Decade of the State of Israel, by Ernest Stock. New York: Herzl Press, 1989. $10.00. In recent years the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI for short), nee the Jewish Agency for Palestine, has begun to receive the recognition it deserves for its role in the reconstituted Jewish polity as the principal bridging institution between Israel and the Diaspora. JAFI today serves as the nexus of the network of institutions and organizations through which the Jewish people handle their common affairs. (In that network, in addition to JAFI, there are the World Zionist Organization, Keren Hayesod, the United Jewish Appeal, the United Israel Appeal, and the Council of Jewish Federations, all ofwhich are represented directly or indirectly in the governing bodies of the Agency, plus the Joint Distribution Committee, the World Jewish Congress, the World Conference on Soviet Jewry, and HIAS, which are tied to the core group, sometimes antagonistically.) Even so, JAFI and its role are not well enough known, understood, or appreciated. Indeed, the first published academic literature on the subject appeared no more than two decades ago and the first book only a decade ago. Dr. Ernest Stock, in his career as an active public servant of the Jewish polity, spent many years within the Agency and in his subsequent academic career pioneered in the study of its role within the world Jewish polity. He has done us a signal service in undertaking to write a comprehensive history of the Jewish Agency from its conceptualization in 1922 and founding in 1929 until its reconstitution in 1971. Chosen Instrnment is the first volume of that study, the second ofwhich will follow shortly. Stock's study is an excellent example of the kind of serious examination which needs to be done for so many other institutions into whose hands contemporary Jewish life has been thrust. Drawing on his extensive knowledge of Zionist history, multi-country Jewish associations, and Jewish political studies, Dr. Stock leads us through the intricacies of Jewish politics and the interplay between Zionists and non-Zionists in the establishment of the Agency. He examines the history of the failed original partnership between Zionists and non-Zionists established in 1929 and why it did not work. The principal reason seems to be that the latter did not have any constituents. Many are the complaints that Jewish institutions are unrepresentative, in part because, except for the State of Israel and its institutions, they are voluntary organizations. Nevertheless, there are degrees of representativeness or 100 SHOFAR unrepresentativeness. As Dr. Stock demonstrates, the initial partnership failed because while the World Zionist Organization was at least representative of those who identified with it and the ones it claimed to represent, the non-Zionists were truly representative of nobody, certainly not of those whose designated representatives they were. In this respect, the more recent reconstitution was at the very least a reconstitution of equal partners, and in some respects with the WZO in the diaspora much weakened, and the UJA and Keren Hayesod responsible for appointing the community representatives , it could be said that the latter, the heirs of the "non-Zionists" of the past, were the more representative. Dr. Stock examines the painful transition the Agency underwent after the establishment of the state and its near demise before being rescued to become the instrument that it has become. The question of how the Jewish Agency survived after Israel was established is one of the critical ones dealt with extensively in this book. A combination of the necessity to live within the limitations of the American tax laws and the utility of the patronage available through the Agency departments in Israeli party politics enabled the Agency to survive in a period when mamlakhtiut (statism) was dominant. The vast majority of Israelis wanted to concentrate as many of their governing institutions in the hands of the state as possible as a sign of renewed Jewish sovereignty. The Knesset was established with 120 members, following the tradition of the Anshei Knesset HaGadolah: 120 equalled a minyan from each of the twelve tribes, i.e., was a comprehensive body...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 99-101
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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