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Brit Ivrit Olamit

BRIT IVRIT OLAMIT (Heb. "World Hebrew Union"; Eng. "World Association for Hebrew Language and Culture"), organization for the promotion of Hebrew language and culture. The idea of establishing what became the Brit Ivrit Olamit originated in October 1930, when Simon *Rawidowicz delivered a lecture at a meeting in the Bet Am Ivri in Berlin, in which he surveyed the development of modern Hebrew literature. Noting that Hebrew creativity in Eastern Europe and the Germanic lands had greatly declined after World War I and perceiving in this a great danger for the Jews of the Diaspora as well as for Hebrew creativity in general, he proposed the creation of a broad-based cultural organization to deal with the situation. Rawidowicz's idea gained much support, and together with Dov Lipitz, head of the *Tarbut school system in Lithuania, he established a committee to organize a Hebrew Conference that convened in Berlin in June 1931. There, in his opening speech, Rawidowicz went beyond the issue of establishing an organization to stimulate and guide Hebrew creativity in the Diaspora, as he additionally proposed a completely new approach to Jewish life and culture that rejected the accepted view that the Land of Israel should serve as a spiritual center for the Diaspora and instead advocated a theory of "partnership" according to which the Diaspora was to assume responsibility for actively creating its own Hebraic culture. While Rawidowicz's idea of establishing an international Hebrew movement was accepted, the ideological basis that he proposed generated much heated discussion. Finally, it was decided to establish an organization called the Brit Ivrit Olamit, and to set up a Temporary Central Committee to administer the Brit and to organize a Hebrew Congress. That committee then entrusted Rawidowicz with heading the Brit, and began to plan the Congress.

However, with the Nazi rise to power in early 1933, the Central Committee could not continue to function in Berlin and decided to establish a new Temporary Central Committee in Warsaw under the direction of Zvi Zohar. This Committee convened an enlarged committee of the Brit which met in Prague in August 1933 before the Eighteenth World Zionist Congress. There, it was apparently decided that Central Committees of the Brit were to be established in Warsaw and London and an Executive in London, which was headed by Rawidowicz; additionally, some members of the Berlin Central Committee who had settled in Ereẓ Israel were apparently authorized to set up a local Central Committee, but instead they, together with some local figures, claimed to be the sole successor of the Berlin Central Committee and rejected the claim of the London Executive to jurisdiction over the Brit, thereby greatly limiting the scope of its activities.

The Brit in Ereẓ Israel immediately ran into financial difficulties and its activities were very limited, although it published a significant series, Am va-Sefer (1936–74, 1981–92). Finally after World War II and the establishment of the State of Israel, it convened the long-awaited Hebrew Congress in 1950. Headed by distinguished figures such as Izhak *Ben-Zvi , Zalman *Shazar , and Arieh *Tartakower , the Brit remained an independent organization which cooperated with the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization in fostering the study of Hebrew in the Diaspora. In the early 21st century its main activity consisted of co-sponsoring European academic Hebrew conferences (17 up to 2005), many of whose proceedings have been published, and also the journal Revue européenne des études hébraïques (since 1996).


S. Rawidowicz, in Ha-Olam, 18 (1930), 971–72, 994–95, 1014–15; idem, ibid., 20 (1932), 683–84, 700–1, 734–36; The Hebrew Conference in Berlin: 6–8 Tammuz 5631 (Heb., 1932); A. Levinson, The Hebrew Movement in the Diaspora (Heb., 1935); S. Rawidowicz, Hadoar, 29 (1950), 663–65, 691–93, 714–16, 748–49, 793–94, 821–22, 838–39, 855–57; B. Ravid, "Simon Rawidowicz and the 'Brit Ivrit Olamit': A Study in the Relationship between Hebrew Culture in the Diaspora and Zionist Ideology" (Heb.), in: Studies and Essays in Hebrew Language and Literature: Berlin Congress: Proceedings of the 16th Hebrew Scientific European Congress (2004), 119–54.

[Benjamin Ravid (2nd ed.)]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.