A Gift from Golda

Unfurl a scroll presented to JDC/MALBEN by Prime Minister Meir in 1969

On October 19, 1969, Prime Minister Golda Meir presented JDC with a beautiful hand-lettered scroll in honor of the 20th Anniversary of JDC/MALBEN. Three hundred fifty members of the 1969 United Jewish Appeal Mission joined in a gala celebration at the Frieda Schiff Warburg Home in Netanya, Israel, to celebrate.

Prime Minister Meir delivered a warm and moving address, reminiscing and describing what JDC/MALBEN meant to the people of Israel.

“I cannot imagine a contribution to Israel that is greater, that is more human. That has helped more to create us and to form us into a decent society than the JDC/MALBEN programs.”

Page from the 1969 JDC Annual Report showing photos of Prime Minister Golda Meir presenting the scroll.

Bearing her signature in Hebrew and English, the scroll read:

“In recognition of the historic services rendered in the fields of health, welfare and education during the past two decades and for the vitally important programs now underway.”

The simple scroll commemorates just how impactful MALBEN was for the young State of Israel. MALBEN rehabilitation programs had opened new worlds to the disadvantaged, enabling them to contribute to the building of the new country and MALBEN homes for the aged had offered the elderly safe and supportive environments after lifetimes of hardship and struggle. MALBEN had developed alongside the evolving country and offered crucial aid for those who needed it most.

The May 15, 1948, birth of the State of Israel represented the fulfillment of the dreams and yearnings of thousands of generations, but also brought massive numbers of new olim (immigrants) from both Europe and the Muslim countries whose needs quickly threatened to overwhelm the capacities of the newborn—and newly besieged—Jewish State.

Among the Jews arriving from Europe were some 100,000 veterans of the Displaced Persons camps, including many thousands of aged, sick, or disabled survivors of concentration camps whose broken bodies made them utterly dependent on assistance.

And so, in 1949, the government of Israel invited JDC to work with them in confronting these challenges. The outcome was MALBEN—a Hebrew acronym for Organization for the Care of Handicapped Immigrants. Over the next few years, MALBEN rushed to construct a network of a hundred institutions, converting former British army barracks and any available building into homes for the aged, hospitals, TB sanitariums, sheltered workshops, and rehabilitation centers. MALBEN also funded the training of nurses and rehabilitation workers.

A group of residents at a MALBEN old age home. Pardesiya, Israel, c. 1955. Photographer: Fred Csasznik.

A young cerebral palsy patient learns to read at the JDC-supported Asaf Harofeh Hospital. Tzrifin, Israel, 1962.

By 1969—20 years after creation of the State of Israel—more than 1.3 million olim had arrived. JDC had assisted more than 250,000 people. The population of aged had risen sharply. That year JDC and the government of Israel inaugurated ESHEL—the Association for the Planning and Development of Services for the Aged—to extend a network of coordinated services to underserved elderly by pooling resources locally, regionally, and nationally. ESHEL has since transformed the quality of life available to Israel’s seniors, but it was MALBEN that was there as a building block to secure the future of Israel’s most vulnerable citizens and set a precedent for how the disadvantaged should be treated. The scroll proclaims a job well done, but it is the faces of those helped that illustrate just how important the programming was to the diverse population of Israel. See more photos of JDC assistance in the 1960s.

View MALBEN activities firsthand by watching footage from 1958 of elderly residents of the newly constructed MALBEN community of Neve Avot and the Frieda Schiff Warburg Home in Netanya:

Forsake Me Not (excerpts), 1958