The Jewish Colonization Association was founded in 1891 by Baron Maurice de Hirsch of Paris, with the purpose of assisting Jews in depressed economic circumstances or in countries which persecuted them politically (chiefly Eastern Europe).
The most prominent of its activities was the resettling of Jews from Eastern Europe on lands purchased for them in South America, chiefly Argentina and Brazil. However, JCA also devoted much effort and money to education, especially vocational training in hundreds of Eastern communities, as well as encouraging agriculture and small industrial ventures in these countries.
The Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People hold three archival collections of JCA:
1) The archives of JCA’s head office, which was located in Paris until 1949 (when it moved to London).
2) The archives of JCA’s Argentinean office, which was located in Buenos Aires.
3) Files from the office of JCA's Turkish headquarters
The archives of the head office contain about 1000 files of correspondence, c. 1891 to 1971, between the head office and JCA's branches in Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Argentina, Brazil, Romania, Austria (Galicia), Turkey, Cyprus and Palestine, as well as with other philanthropic organizations, such as the Alliance Israélite Universelle, ORT, HIAS, etc. The head office archives also contain several series of reports and minutes (seances) in printed and mimeographed form.
Many files deal with Jewish schools in Eastern Europe, professional and other, some of them set up by JCA, others supported by the organization. For some of these schools and indeed for some of these communities, the JCA files provide the only surviving written evidence of their existence. Another aspect of JCA's activity in Eastern Europe was the encouragement of "productive" i.e. agricultural and industrial activity. The files abound in information on loan associations and cooperatives set up to assist the Jews in these ventures.
Not to be overlooked are the colonies in Palestine, which received assistance from JCA from 1896 onwards. In 1899 Baron Edmond de Rothschild transferred to JCA the colonies under his care, and only in 1923 were they returned to his "jurisdiction" with the foundation of PICA (the Palestine Jewish Colonisation Association).
The 1000 correspondence files (which contain reports, maps and school plans as well) contain approximately 300,000 pages, about 40% of which are handwritten and the remainder typed. The most dominant language is French, with German not far behind. Other languages, in order of their relative prevalence, are Russian, Romanian, Yiddish, English, Hebrew, Polish and Spanish.
In Argentina JCA assisted Jewish settlers who had founded the settlement of Moisesville. JCA subsequently created a number of new settlements in the provinces of Santa Fé, Entre Rios, La Pampa and Buenos Aires. The settlement reached its peak in 1930, but the difficult life coupled with the attractions of town living caused a decline in the number of Jews in the colonies. By 1966 only about 8,000 Jews remained in the JCA colonies.
The papers of JCA’s Argentinean office include correspondence files, ledgers and 7,000 personal files of individual colonists. The material dates from 1890 to about 1970.
The collection consists of close to 100 files relating to a colony and an agricultural school set up by JCA in Turkey.