FARBAND, American Jewish Labor Zionist fraternal order. The establishment of the Farband was first conceived in Philadelphia in 1908 by a small group headed by Meyer L. Brown which sought to build a fraternal order in which Labor Zionists would feel at home – one that would combine fraternal benefits and mutual aid with a Labor Zionist outlook and program. In the succeeding two years groups were formed in several cities, and on June 10–16 a founding conference of the national Farband took place in Rochester, New York. It adopted the name Yiddish Natzionaler Arbeiter Farband (Jewish National Workers Alliance) and formulated the following program:
The JNWA strives to organize all Jewish workers on the following principles:
1. Mutual help in case of need, sickness, and death.
2. Education of Jewish workers to full awareness of their national and social interests.
3. Support of all endeavors which lead to the national liberation and renascence of the Jewish people… support of all activities which lead to the strengthening and liberation of the working class.
With the then existing Jewish fraternal orders largely devoid of ideological content, and with the only other Jewish workers order – the *Workmen's Circle (Arbeiter Ring) – adopting an anti-Zionist position, Farband, with its socialist-Zionist viewpoint and program in Israel and America, grew in number from 1,000 in 1911 to 25,000 in 1946 and 40,000 in 1972.
In 1911 Farband developed the first modern insurance and mutual benefit system for Jewish workers. The organization received its official charter, licensing it to sell various insurance and medical plans, from the State of New York on January 6, 1913, and from Canada in 1921. The main mutual benefits of Farband include: life, accident, health, hospitalization, and juvenile insurance; a major medical plan; and savings and loan groups.
From its inception Farband was involved in Jewish communal affairs at home and abroad. In 1913 it fought against the "literacy test" given to immigrants and protested against the *Beilis Trial. During World War I Farband participated in the establishment of the American Jewish Congress and the People's Relief Committee, and sent many volunteers to fight in the ranks of the Jewish Legion. During World War II Far-band campaigned actively to raise funds for the Labor Zionist Committee for Relief and Rehabilitation. It also energetically supported the founding of the American Jewish Conference in 1944. Farband has also been active in the civil rights struggle and has espoused many other liberal causes both in the United States and Canada.
Farband concentrates much of its energies on cultural activities. In addition to maintaining a network of day and evening schools, Farband established "educational bureaus" in the 1920s to encourage Jewish cultural activities by promoting "Onegei Shabbat," musical and drama presentations, seminars, study groups, and lectures throughout the United States and Canada. Farband encourages its members to use Hebrew and Yiddish and in cooperation with the Hillel Foundation has since 1966 promoted the study of the Yiddish language and literature on many campuses throughout the United States. Farband supports the Jewish Teachers' Seminary, the People's University in New York, the Farband Book Publishing Association, and a number of newspapers and periodicals in Yiddish, Hebrew, and English. It provides educational programs during the summer months through its network of summer camps: in 1926 Unser Camp (for adults) and Kinderwelt (for youth) were created in New York. The educational and financial success of these camps stimulated the creation of similar camps throughout the United States and Canada. Habonim is the youth movement of the Farband, as well as of Po'alei Zion and Pioneer Women.
As a Labor Zionist organization Farband has always maintained strong ties with Erez Israel and the State of Israel, especially the workers' groups there. At its founding conference, it resolved to institute obligatory taxes for the benefit of workers in Ereẓ Israel. Important Israeli leaders, among them David Ben-Gurion, Izhak Ben-Zvi, Golda Meir, and Zalman Shazar, have frequently come to the United States to address its conventions and leaders. In 1919 Farband opened a branch in Ereẓ Israel, and during the Mandatory period and after World War II it campaigned energetically and assisted with funds and manpower in the creation of the Jewish State. After the birth of Israel, Farband continued its work on behalf of the cooperative, pioneering sector through support of the Histadrut. It consistently invested a part of its insurance funds in bodies which promote its ideals and today is the largest investor in Ampal, the American investment arm associated with the Histadrut.
Since the 1930s the possibility of the unification of Po'alei Zion and Farband has been discussed frequently, since both share the same Labor Zionist philosophy, the same goals in America and Israel, and have cooperated on the most important national and international projects. In 1954, during Farband's Montreal convention, Zalman Shazar, subsequently
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.