The Shekel - Symbol of Jewish Unity

Issued by the Executive of World Zionist Organisation

c. 1936


         "A Shekel of Defense and Offense" was declared by the leadership of the World Zionist Organisation following the Lucerne Zionist Congress in proclaiming a campaign for a million Shekel-payers throughout the world.

         Since then the duty of defense and the call for an offensive have taken on new meaning. The enemies of the Jewish people throughout the world and Arab enemies of the Jewish hope in Palestine have launched a campaign of terror in Palestine aiming at the destruction of the Yishub. They have resorted to murder and to arson bringing death to tens of our pioneers and wantonly burning scores of thousands of trees in Jewish forests. Through blood and fire they sought to destroy our hope, but in blood and fire there was renewed and strengthened the eternal bond between the people and its land, which, through much sacrifice is being transformed into the land of Jewish hope and redemption.

         The danger to our land has not yet been removed. New restrictions to limit our immigration and impede our progress are now being formulated. The defenders must remain at their posts.

         All Jew are summoned to join the ranks of the defenders of Zion! The Shekel this year is to serve for friends and foes alike as evidence that the Yishub in Palestine is not alone in guarding Jewish interests, but with it are aligned the solid ranks of millions of Jews throughout the world.

         And American Jews must be in the front lines! Spared the misfortunes of Hitlerism, pogroms and terrorism, the Jews of America will demonstrate through the present Shekel campaign, that the cause of Zion is theirs, that in the hour of need and decision they are aligned with their numbers and their influence together with the defenders of the Jewish National Home.

         All adult Jews, men and women, of all shades of political, social and religious attitudes, - all those concerned with the destiny of the Jewish people and its redemption are summoned in this critical hour to demonstrate their adherence to the world Zionist movement by purchasing and distributing the Shekel.

111 Fifth Avenue, New York


         Something new and decisive in the Jewish world was achieved by the creation of the World Zionist Organisation at the first Basle Congress. The abstract concept of redemption which had never found an appropriate form now took on substance in the form of the World Zionist Organisation. This new body obliterated the divisions between rich Jews and poor; between observant and non-observant Jews. It abolished the boundaries between the Jews in the various lands and united them for a common purpose, for the liberation of the people. The first Zionist Congress proclaimed the Jewish people to be a living reality determined to break the yoke of its exile and fashion for itself a full and free life in its National Home. In order to achieve this purpose an all-embracing and unifying organization was to be established.


         A completely different character was taken on by the Zionist movement at the first Zionist Congress and by the Organization which was established as the instrument for the realization of Zionist aims. Zionism was able to develop and to progress only as the central movement of the entire people throughout the world inclusive of all of its parties and groups. And the Organization charged with the task of realizing this aim has, from the very beginning, directed its entire energies to penetrate into the masses of the people, to arouse them, and to transform them into an organized force with full consciousness of its needs and the direction it was to follow.

         For the first time in the history of the Jewish dispersion the masses were called upon to determine their own destiny. The people had ceased to become an object of charity and solicitude for certain philanthropists who, because of connection and wealth, had the possibilities to be of assistance. It became its own master, bearing the responsibility for its activities, electing its own leaders and holding them accountable for their leadership.


         In proclaiming the existence of the Jewish people and its determination to be redeemed, the first Zionist Congress also declared the right of every individual member of the people desiring to participate actively in the work of liberation, to influence the nature and direction of this work. By establishing the Zionist Organization on these new principles, the Zionist Congress also created the concept of Jewish citizenship and introduced the principle of elective leadership which was to be directly responsible to its electors - the people. And just as the first Zionist Congress had laid the foundation for a new Jewish policy based on the unity of the people, regardless of its dispersion among the nations, so also it began to fashion the Jewish Homeland through the formation of the World Zionist Organization.

         The Zionist Organization was not intended to become another party, although its opponents attempted to stamp it as such. The Zionist Organization provided a place in its midst for all Jewish parties, demanding only from them recognition of the necessity for redemption and their participation in the work of liberation. It was not to be a loose association of parties acting only on the basis of mutual agreement, but it became a cohesive Organization whose representatives at Congresses adopted decisions by majority votes which were binding on the entire membership of all the parties. This method left room within the Organization for the various parties to conduct their own activities and to strive for supremacy, just as it is customary among all organized peoples.


         The Shekel was proclaimed by the first Zionist Congress to be the annual poll tax due to the Zionist Organization, to be paid by every Jew accepting the Zionist program. The Shekel gives the right of franchise to every Jew and Jewess of 18 years and over to vote for delegates to the Zionist Congress, which is the supreme legislative body of the Zionist Organization. This small payment for the Shekel immediately transformed the Zionist Organization into a mass movement which from the very beginning attracted to itself tens of thousands of Jews in all parts of the world. The Shekel also became the primary source of revenue for the Zionist Organization.

         The final decisions on all the activities of the Zionist Organization rest with the Zionist Congress - that is, with the Shekel-payers who elect the delegates to the Congress. Hence the Shekel-payers actually control the Zionist movement, formulate its policies, appoint or remove its leaders in accordance with the established policy in democratic states. In purchasing the Shekel every Jew ipso facto accepts the authority of the Zionist Organization and agrees to abide by the decisions of the Zionist Congress. Nothing more is required of him than the affirmation of the Basle Program. He is at complete liberty to fight within the Organization for his own opinion and for the shaping of Zionist policy in accordance with his own ideals and aspirations. Because of this freedom the Zionist Organization never became a party; it was the instrument of the Jewish people itself organized for its revival and redemption.

         The Shekel must, however, not become merely a voting card; it must again become what Herzl conceived it to be - the Certificate of Jewish Citizenship. It is essential that this Shekel be purchased every year without reference to Congresses or elections. This duty must be made clear to workers in all parties. It is their task to further this educational process, to arouse the masses of the Jewish people to a sense of active Jewish citizenship and to a realiztion of the necessity for every potential Zionist to become an active Zionist.


         In the years when no Congresses are held, the number of Shekel-payers generally declines to a half, and often to even a third, of the number reached in Congress years. This situation is detrimental to the Organization and definitely interferes with its normal functioning. In view of the continual fluctuation in the number of Shekel-payers and in the amounts derived from the Shekel, it is impossible to establish a systematic plan for educational and propaganda activities, with the inevitable consequence of a weakening in the influence and prestige of the Organization. When the number of Shekel-payers can rise to 1,000,000 during a Congress year (as happened in 1935) as against about 250,000 the year previous, it becomes evident that such fluctuation cannot serve to provide a basis for belief, either within our ranks or on the outside, that we actually represent the people, speak in its behalf, or control its active forces. The resultant feeling of skepticism weakens our influence on the outside world and also serves to destroy our faith in our own strength.

         It is high time to make an end to this unhealthy situation. We must stabilize the distribution of the Shekel as well as the income to cover the administrative budget. All Shekel-payers during Congress years must also acquire their Shekolim during non-Congress years. If all parties and party workers would cooperate and devote themselves to this end, we could accomplish it without any difficulty. The decline in the number of Shekolim sold during non-Congress years is not due to the lack of response on the part of Shekel-payers but simply to the fact that Shekel-payers are not called upon to fulfill their duties.


         The fate of the Zionist movement will be decided in the present era. Jewish life in practically all countries containing large Jewish populations is becoming intolerable. Political persecution and economic discrimination are depriving the Jews in many countries of all means of livelihood. The surplus Jewish population finds itself without any hope for the future in the countries of their residence. Assimilation has not only failed to answer the Jewish problem but has led to catastrophic results. In the light of these cruel facts, the eyes of the Jewish masses have been opened to an understanding that there is no other alternative to the sufferings of the Exile except deliverance and redemption through rebuilding of the Jewish National Home in Palestine.


         It was Zionism, through the Organization which it called into being, that has summoned the Jewish people to take the road of liberation and redemption, of reconstruction and revival. Its efforts in the course of two generations have borne fruit. In spite of tremendous obstacles, we have taken root in Eretz Israel and have established there a Yishub of Jews from all parts of the Diaspora, totalling about 400,000 and constituting approximately 30% of the entire population. The economic and cultural strength of this Yishub is far greater than its number, but the road ahead is still long and difficult. With every step foward along the path to our goal there are revealed additional obstacles which require renewed efforts on our part to surmount them. Only a powerful, popular movement is able to produce the type of effort required; only an organization in which are mobilized all the active and vital forces of the people is capable of reaching the goal of restoring a land and the liberty of a people.

         The Zionist Organization is now called upon to mobilize all its forces in order to combat any attempt to violate our rights under the Mandate or to limit our activities in the developement of Palestine. It is called upon, moreover, to increase its strength in order to accelerate the tempo of Palestine upbuilding and to meet the emergency presented by the sufferings of large numbers of Jews in many lands.

         The million Shekel-payers who participated in the last Zionist Congress are summoned to an immediate re-mobilization in order to erect around our only hope an impregnable wall of defense and power. This year, the Shekel is not a means of voting at an election. It is not a weapon of inner struggle among the Zionist parties. It is a means of defense and offense in the hands of a united and militant Zionist Organization against the enemies of the Jewish people!

         In mobilizing a million Shekel-payers, the Zionist Organization will demonstrate to the world its inflexible determination to carry foward the work of rebuilding in Palestine in the face of all obstacles and difficulties, until victory is achieved.

         A million Shekel-holders will give an effective answer to our enemies in the Diaspora as well as to the disturbers in Palestine - the answer of a people bent upon its self-liberation.