WIZO in Belgium was born almost simultaneously with WIZO in England. A Women’s Zionist Organization had existed before, not long after 1897, so that when it affiliated to WIZO, only its name – Circle of Zionist Women -- had to be altered. Among their activities the most notable were Bible courses, Hebrew lessons, a workshop, and “Thursday Evening Zionist Lectures”. During the war years of 1914 to 1918, the leaders and many members of the Zionist Organization of Antwerp found refuge in Holland and continued their work from there. With war’s end, the Antwerp Zionists returned home and Jewish and Zionist life was reorganized. One day, during one of its meetings, the President of the Circle of Zionist Women announced its affiliation to WIZO.
The period between the two World Wars was a varied and fruitful one for WIZO. Children’s festivals, lectures, workshops, social functions, bazaars and balls swelled its income. Belgian WIZO was in close contact with the World WIZO Executive in London from whom it received its directives.
During WWII, all organized Jewish life was disrupted. This cruel war brought about a mass exodus of the Jewish community to Canada, South America, and where they could find refuge. Those chaverot who stayed in Brussels joined the committees of the “Civil Resistance” or did social welfare work. Often at the risk of their lives, they took on clandestine tasks helping Jews in hiding. In October 1945, Belgian WIZO tried to revive its groups. WIZO’s ranks had been sadly depleted, but new, young forces joined. New groups were created in several towns between 1951-53, In 1962 the “Yaldei WIZO” groups (later transformed into “Aviv” groups) were created in Antwerp and Brussels. Since 1963, the traditional activities were enlarged by an important event: the “Journée du Livre” in which Belgian and foreign writers participate, with the cooperation of wives of public personalities and diplomats. Since 1964, the World WIZO Bible Day has been held annually in Antwerp. Because of its perfect organization and high standard, Bible Day has conferred added prestige on WIZO in Belgium and Luxembourg.
For many years, members of the Federation have made their “Aliyah” to Israel, and children of its chaverot study or settle in Israel. They also volunteered in great numbers during Israel’s Six Day War.
Since 1985, WIZO Antwerpen has organized an annual Ball, drawing enthusiastic youngsters from neighboring countries. WIZO Liege holds an annual concert. Annual bazaars are held in Antwerp, Brussels and Liege. All sections hold annual flower sales for Rosh Hashanah. WIZO Charleroi has a sale of “Manot” for Purim. The annual bridge tournament organized by WIZO Luxembourg attracts large numbers of both Jewish and non-Jewish participants. In 1974, WIZO Antwerp organized a meeting at which Beate Klarsfeld and her husband, tireless trackers of Nazi war criminals, were the guest speakers. WIZO Belgium took an active part in demonstrations on behalf of refuseniks and Soviet Jews.