Part two of this centennial celebration explores the organization’s activities helping Holocaust survivors and refugees to JDC’s most recent relief activities aiding victims of contemporary natural disasters.
Survivors, Refugees, & New Needs
At the war’s end, JDC, supplementing the efforts of the United States Army, raced to meet a crisis of staggering proportions by shipping 113,000 tons of scarce supplies to sustain tens of thousands of newly liberated Jews in the concentration camps
Children liberated from Buchenwald arrive in Thionville, France (1945-06-06) by Photographer unknownAmerican Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Archives
The survivors were placed in temporary housing or Displaced Persons (DP) camps where JDC continued its massive relief efforts.
These orphaned survivors were en route to a children’s orphanage in Ecouis, France.
Report by Earl Harrison advocating better treatment for Jews in DP camps alongside photograph of Dr. Joseph Schwartz (left) and Earl Harrison (1945) by Report: Earl Harrison Image: Photographer unknownAmerican Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Archives
Harrison was appointed by President Truman to study conditions in the camps. He was accompanied on his tour by JDC’s European Director, Dr. Joseph Schwartz.
It was at JDC’s urging that specific camps were established for Jewish Holocaust survivors.
Bar of soap distributed by JDC in the DP camps (1945/1946)American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Archives
By 1947, 250,000 Jews, including refugees fleeing Poland, Hungary, Romania, and the Soviet Union, were living in DP camps. Once again, JDC supplied critical sustenance; organized camp activities and training programs, and distributed educational and religious materials.
Leonard Bernstein leads seventeen former concentration camp inmates in a concert (1948-05-10) by Photographer unknownAmerican Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Archives
The concert, one of a series arranged by JDC, was in the Feldafing DP camp near Munich, Germany.
The cover of this Haggadah, published by JDC for residents of the DP camps, features a map of Israel with Moses leading the Jewish people to their homeland. Passover occurred in late April 1948, and the new State of Israel was proclaimed approximately two weeks later on May 14, 1948.
As it had done before the war, JDC established a vast emigration service that resettled Jews all over the world, enabling almost all of the DP camps to close by 1952.
Simultaneously, JDC launched an aid program for children in Jewish communities in North Africa.
Israel: 1948 to the Present-Ingathering of Exiles
"This is the miracle of JDC, that it...can work on a global scale dealing with tens of thousands of people and, at the same time, lend a patient ear and a helping hand to the troubles of the individual." Charles Jordan, Guide to Overseas Operations, 1957
Yemenite Jews aboard airplane taking them to Israel from Aden (1949) by Alexander Taylor (American, 1905-83)American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Archives
By the end of 1950, JDC had helped ca. 440,000 stateless and at-risk Jews to emigrate to the new State of Israel. This number included JDC involvement in the airlift of Yemenite Jews to Israel in 1948/50.
A group of Jewish men led by the kessim (spiritual leaders) at a religious event (1987) by Donald M. Robinson (American, b. 1925)American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Archives
JDC later cared for and assisted in the emigration of Jews from Ethiopia in the early 1990s; helping to facilitate Operation Solomon’s 36-hour airlift of over 14,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel in May 1991.
JDC has been at the forefront in addressing social welfare needs in Israel since the state’s founding in 1948. In 1949, it partnered with the Jewish Agency and the Israeli government to create MALBEN, a comprehensive social services organization that assisted the elderly, the chronically ill, and people with disabilities.
In 1998, JDC, the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, and Israel’s Education Ministry established PACT (Parents and Children Together) to address the needs of Ethiopian-Israeli pre-schoolers. Six years later, JDC and the Israeli government created TEVET (Fighting Poverty Through Employment), which continues to provide training and placement assistance for the long-term jobless.
Today, JDC continues its involvement in partnerships that are helping working-age Israelis, including Israeli Arabs, ultra-Orthodox Jews, and people with disabilities, become part of a burgeoning economy and securing a better future for at-risk children and young adults.
From Communism to Jewish Renewal
"That is the greatest thing for me . . . the Almighty allowed me to remain in life to see . . . that we have once more a Jewish future." Ilona Seifert, Jewish community leader, Budapest, Hungary, 1996
Chief Rabbi Moses Rosen at a Simchat Torah celebration at the Choral Synagogue (1969) by Photographer unknownAmerican Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Archives
Expelled from Communist countries at various points of the Cold War, in 1967 and 1980-82, JDC was allowed to return to Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Poland where it aided Holocaust survivors and provided assistance to local Jewish communities.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, JDC also assisted Jewish émigrés who had left Soviet Russia and were awaiting immigration processing in Vienna, Rome, and Ladispoli, Italy.
JDC re-entered the Soviet Union in 1988 with the mission of reconnecting Soviet Jews to their heritage.
JDC’s Honorary Executive Vice President, was issued a visa allowing travel between Washington, Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, and Vilnius, for the period between July 1, 1991 and April 5, 1992. This was the first time since 1938 that anyone from JDC was issued a multi-entry visa that allowed travel throughout this region.
Three years later, the collapse of the Soviet Union transformed JDC's mission. For Jews who lived under Communism and had been cut off from their religious and cultural roots for seventy years, JDC was now free to offer an array of opportunities to rebuild Jewish life.
Eyeglasses held together by string, wire, and rubber bands with original prescription, given to JDC in 1991 (1947)American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Archives
The original Russian owner received these glasses upon demobilization from the Red Army after WWII. They contained his original prescription because he never had the equivalent of the 6 cents needed to replace it. JDC replaced the glasses for him in 1991.
When economic calamity loomed in the post-Soviet era, JDC partnered with the Claims Conference, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and others to establish a network of Hesed social service centers across the former Soviet Union that continue to provide life-sustaining support for elderly Jews and children-at-risk.
Throughout the former Soviet Union and across the globe, JDC has established Jewish community centers, developed academic and grassroots Jewish studies programs, organized Jewish summer camps, and used innovative programs and venues to make Judaism accessible to people of all backgrounds.
"One hundred years of indispensable work to protect those across the generations who have suffered from the scourge of war, violence, bigotry, hunger, and natural disaster…." United States Treasury Secretary, Jacob J. Lew, 2013
Victims of Armenian earthquake being airlifted to Israel to be fitted with prosthetics (1989) by Shlomo Arad (Israeli, b. 1937)American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Archives
In the spirit of tikkun olam (repairing the world), JDC's International Development Program delivers non-sectarian emergency relief and long-term rehabilitation assistance in disaster situations.
JDC teams responded to the Armenia earthquake in 1988...
A man picks up his bags to leave Sarajevo on a JDC convoy, Bosnia and Herzegovina (1994-01) by Edward Serotta (American, b. 1949)American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Archives
...the outbreak of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina in April 1992, and the 1992-95 siege of Sarajevo.
The departure point for JDC convoys out of besieged Sarajevo was a Jewish community building.
New York native, Dr. Rick Hodes, JDC’s Medical Director in Ethiopia, examining a young Rwandan refugee (1994) by Photographer unknownAmerican Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Archives
Additionally, JDC has responded to the genocide in Rwanda, the South Asia tsunami, the devastating earthquake in Haiti, and the Philippines typhoon. Tens of millions of dollars have been raised for natural and manmade disasters in India, Indonesia, Japan, Kosovo, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Turkey.
JDC Jewish Service Corps volunteer, Andrew Rehfeld (1990) by Leon Morris (American, b. 1968)American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Archives
Carrying forward its founders’ traditions, JDC’s Entwine program is empowering a new generation of global Jewish leaders. Under JDC’s auspices, young adults are working today across the globe.
JDC is the world’s leading Jewish humanitarian assistance organization, improving millions of lives today in more than 70 countries. Leveraging a century’s experience confronting poverty and crisis, JDC brings relief to the world's poorest Jews, rescues Jewish and non-Jewish victims of global emergencies, and helps to empower Israel's future.
This online exhibit is an abridged version of a larger exhibit entitled “I Live. Send Help.: 100 Years of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee," which was presented at the New-York Historical Society from June 13, 2014 – September 21, 2014. A full traveling exhibit is available for loan. For further information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.