Vienna celebrates 110 years of KKL-JNF with the exhibition “Vienna Woods in Israel”

Thursday, April 19, 2012 9:03 AM

Vienna holds special exhibition “The Vienna Woods in Israel” - 110 Years of Keren Kayemeth Leisrael, at the Jewish Museum in Vienna, in honor of KKL-JNF's 110th birthday.

Some 200 guests responded to the joint invitation of Dr. Michael Häupl, Mayor and Governor of Vienna, Mr. Efi Stenzler, World Chairman of KKL and Mr. Viktor Wagner, President of KKL Austria and on March 3rd 2012 attended the pre-opening of the exhibition “The Vienna Woods in Israel” - 110 Years of Keren Kayemeth Leisrael, which was held in the festive hall of the Jewish Museum in Vienna.

L-R: Jariv Sultan, Executive Director, KKL Austria; Elinor Milchan, Artist; Dr. Danielle Spera, Director,Vienna Jewish Museum; Efi Stenzler, KKL-JNF World Chairman; Aviv Shir-On, Israeli Ambassador to Austria. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive/Salvador Images 

The exhibition’s title “The Vienna Woods in Israel” was chosen as a tribute to the "Vienna Woods" in Israel, a section of the Yatir Forest in the Negev which was donated by the City of Vienna and Dr. Michael Häupl in 2000.
The guest list included KKL-JNF donors and sponsors, members of the Jewish community as well as officials and prominent personalities of Vienna.

The beginning - Johann Kremenetzky. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive/Salvadore Images

The exhibition “The Vienna Woods in Israel” shows the history of KKL-JNF from its beginning at the 5th Zionist Congress in Basel, and explains the connection to Vienna. The first World Chairman of KKL-JNF was Johann (Yonah) Kremenezky, a Viennese industrialist and therefore the first head office was located in Vienna. 
Kremenezky initiated and implemented the Blue Box, the organisation’s symbol, and many different Blue Boxes are on display. A very special piece on display is a KKL-JNF Box in Art Deco style, which the chief Rabbi of Vienna, Zvi Perez Chajes, received as a present from the Jewish community in Trieste in 1919. On display are also some covers of the Golden Book andthe very first page of the first Golden Book with signatures of Theodor Herzl and other important personalities of the time.

Viktor Wagner on the Blue Box. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive/Salvador Images

Among the variety of original documents, photos, stamps, plaques and reproductions of KKL-JNF materials, there are three video monitors displaying some other aspects of KKL’s history: on one video screen visitors can see sequences of very old and historical films showing the early days of KKL-JNF in Eretz Israel, as well as the famous speech of Menachem Ussishkin in November 1938. Another screen shows the “Hebrew Suite” – a 12 minute musical composition commissioned by the Ra’anana Symphonette Orchestra in honor of KKL-JNF's 110th birthday. The music was composed by Yvgeni Levitas and Jacob “Yaki” Reuven. The famous video artist Elinor Milchan (who attended the event) created the videography which accompanies the music. A third video screen shows films produced by KKL-JNF in recent times.
In her opening remarks, Dr. Danielle Spera, Director of the Vienna Jewish Museum, told the audience: “I am very happy with this cooperation between the Museum and KKL-JNF, as KKL-JNF is one of the most important organizations in Israel. When traveling for the first time to Israel, the visitor is overwhelmed by and enthusiastic about the green land he sees. The forests and parks are a creation of KKL-JNF, and we should all be thankful to KKL-JNF that for 110 years, it has created a green oasis in the Middle East. The beginning of KKL-JNF here in Vienna, is now on display in the Exhibition”.

Blue Box presented to Viennese Chief Rabbi Zvi Perez Chajes, by the Trieste Jewish community,1919. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive/Salvadore Images

Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Vitouch
, member of the Viennese Parliament who represented the Mayor Dr. Häupl said “Planting of trees is a symbol for friendship. Our National President, Dr. Heinz Fisher, has already planted a tree at the KKL-JNF Grove of Nations. I am sure it is not his last tree to be planted in Israel!”
Mr. Viktor Wagner, President of KKL Austria, mentioned the strong connection every Jewish household has for the Blue Box, and that KKL-JNF is a creation of the entire Jewish People.
Mr. Efi Stenzler, World Chairman of KKL-JNF emphasized the strong historical connections between Vienna and KKL-JNF, and mentioned that the persistence of historical leaders like Theodore Herzl and Jonah Kremenezky paved the way for today’s presence of the Israeli Ambassador in Austria.
H.E. Aviv Shir-On, Israeli Ambassador to Austria, added that “today we know how much the environment and its protection is important for us and for future generations. The dedicated KKL-JNF team knew this a long time ago, and created one of the most impressive projects to protect nature and environment. On behalf of the State of Israel, I would like to thank all supporters of KKL-JNF and wish KKL-JNF all the best for the future”.
Curators of the exhibition are Dr. Marcus Patka from the Jewish Museum Vienna and Mrs. Lotte Meczes from KKL Vienna office. The Exhibition will be displayed during March-April 2012.

The "Vienna Woods in Israel" exhibition is currently on display until April 29, 2012.
For more information on the exhibition, visit