The Blue Box
Jewish National Fund/Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael
The most widely used and known tzedakah box is that of the Jewish National Fund or JNF. The JNF--an organization established in 1901 by the Fifth Zionist Congress to raise funds for the purchase of land in Palestine for a Jewish state--was based on the ideal of secular Zionism. Commonly known as the ‘blue box’ because of its blue and white colours, it was first unveiled by Professor Zvi Hermann Schapira in 1884.
Once the JNF was established, Haim Kleinman, a bank clerk from Nadvorna, Galicia, placed a blue box in his office, and suggested that one be placed in every Jewish home. The first blue boxes were produced in 1904 and were soon found in just about every Jewish community in the Americas and Europe. In particular, school children were and still are encouraged to drop coins into the boxes to teach them the importance of giving tzedakah.
Before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the JNF raised money to purchase and develop Jewish land. Since then collected funds have been allocated more towards agriculture, technology and industry. As a result, the design of the blue box and its iconography has changed over the years in response to the changing role of the JNF and new production techniques. The JNF box has been a powerful symbol for many years of the bond between Jews of the Diaspora and the land of Israel as well as of Zionism as a whole.