When three women in post-WWI Britain decided to create an international organization of Zionist women, they probably didn’t imagine it would grow to encompass over a quarter of a million active members in 2021.
A small exhibition at the Jewish Museum examines the origins and history of WIZO, with a focus on the Austrian branch.
- Review of the work and history of this Jewish women’s advocacy and social welfare organisation
- Runs Feb 8 – May 2, 2021
- Infos in German and English
- A normal entrance ticket for the Jewish Museum includes the exhibition
- See also: Jewish Museum visitor & tickets info
100 years of WIZO in Austria
(Group photo with WIZO President Dorothea Engelberg © WIZO Archiv Wien)
Vienna is no stranger to international organisations: we have a United Nations building and the headquarters of OPEC and the IAEA, for example. And back in 1921, the local Zionist women’s association joined WIZO: the Women’s International Zionist Organization, now represented in 50 countries.
WIZO has since become an important apolitical organisation working to improve conditions for women, social welfare and education with a focus on Israel. It supports, for example, hundreds of services and programmes in Israel itself, including 180 daycare centres, 18 foster homes, and 30 legal advice centres for women.
WIZO’s Austrian branch did not enjoy an unbroken history of course. The arrival of the Nazis in 1938 brought about its end, but the association started up again in 1945 after WWII.
The Jewish Museum marks the 2021 centenary with the Herzl’s Daughters exhibition.
Curator Julia Windegger (in cooperation with WIZO) draws on archive material, documents, photos, and more to cast a brief eye over 100 years of WIZO Austria, reviewing the foundation, history, and activities of this local organisation but also the broader role of WIZO and Jewish women networks.
For example, you can see a collage of photos from numerous events held through the years to raise funds for their charitable initiatives. The photos essentially document the post-WWII growth of the group from a few women to today’s larger organisation.
The title of the exhibition plays, of course, on the name of Theodor Herzl, the initiator of modern political Zionism that eventually led to the establishment of Israel. Indeed, the exhibition dedicates a small space to this adopted son of Vienna (he arrived in the city as a teenager and was first buried here). You can see, for example, a copy of his coffin cloth.
Dates and tickets
Explore the story of WIZO Austria between February 8th, 2021 and May 2nd, 2021. A ticket for the exhibition rooms also counts as a ticket for the main museum site a short walk away on Dorotheergasse (definitely worth a visit; I particularly recommend the concurrent exhibition there on Jewish refugees in China).
How to get to the exhibition
Herzl’s Daughters takes place in the Jewish Museum’s exhibition rooms on Judenplatz right in the heart of the city. See the main museum page for travel tips.
If you want to explore the activities of another international organisation, then the United Nations building in Vienna offers virtual tours as compensation for the lack of real-life ones during the current pandemic.
Address: Judenplatz 8, 1010 Vienna