A Joint Effort: JDC's Beginnings, 1914-1921 draws on a small but representative group of images to illustrate JDC's development and service during its first seven years. These documents and photos reflect the expanding geography of JDC’s reach and evolving nature of its functions during that seminal phase.
A camel train passing through the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem. Palestine, c. 1914, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ggbain-11825.
In August 1914, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Henry Morgenthau, Sr. cabled New York philanthropist Jacob H. Schiff imploring that $50,000 be sent as immediate aid for Palestine’s Jews. Within two days, the money was committed with contributions from Schiff, Louis Marshall, the American Jewish Committee, and the Provisional Executive Committee for General Zionist Affairs. U.S., 1914, NY_38786.
Morgenthau also cabled Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan to enlist U.S. government assistance in transporting the funds. The U.S.S. North Carolina, an armored ship, arrived at Jaffa harbor on October 6 carrying supplies and $50,000 in gold to the desperate Jewish population. A later ship brought additional funds and supplies. Mediterranean Sea, c. 1914, Library of Congress, LC-D4-22805.
To avoid duplication, the American Jewish Relief Committee and the Central Committee met to unite their efforts. A November 27, 1914 letter noted their agreement. Both agencies would place their independently raised funds in the hands of the Joint Distribution Committee of Funds for Jewish War Sufferers (generally known as the Joint Distribution Committee, or JDC), which would represent them equally in deciding how to spend the money. AR 14-18, File 1.1. View this document as a PDF
Louis Marshall (left) and Cyrus Adler were two of the eminent American Jewish Committee leaders involved in the creation of the American Jewish Relief Committee in 1914. The former became its chairman, the latter its campaign chairman. At the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, they played a significant role in securing minority rights within the nations newly carved out of defunct empires. U.S., c. 1920s, American Jewish Committee Archives, PHB06004.
Initially, each participating organization of the Joint Distribution Committee independently raised funds, which were then pooled. At the Central Relief Committee, Financial Secretary Morris Engelman (center), Treasurer Harry Fischel (right), and staff received contributions from Orthodox congregation members through a Passover campaign. Many contributors were immigrants with ties to communities abroad. Even small contributions often involved self-sacrifice by the donors. U.S., c. 1918, NY_03487.
The Jewish People's Relief Committee of America, organized in August 1915 by labor and socialist groups, joined JDC that November. Money was raised at bazaars, weddings and other gatherings, through “tag days, flag days, flower days” and from people on the street. Even contributions of a nickel were acknowledged with printed receipts. AR 14-18, File 60. View this document as a PDF
The committees organized on a national scale to raise funds from three distinct segments of American Jewry, all contributing to a Joint Distribution Committee. JDC 1914 Formation Chart. View this document as a PDF
Jewish War Relief Workers from all over America met in New York on October 28, 1917, probably the most representative gathering of Jews in America at the time. Meeting on a day which U.S. President Wilson had designated for prayer for the Armed Forces, participants resolved: “to make every personal sacrifice in defense of the ideals of our country.” U.S., 1918, Four Years of Relief and War Work by the Jews of America, 1914-1918, by Morris Engelman.
JDC raised almost $9 million by 1917. This map showed how the money had been spent. U.S., 1917, Bulletin of the Joint Distribution Committee, November 1917. View this document as a PDF
President Wilson lent the weight of his office, designating January 27, 1916 as a special day for contributing to Jewish war relief funds. New York Times, January 13, 1916. View this document as a PDF
Funding campaigns, especially those of the Central Committee, were often tied to the Jewish calendar, such as this Yom Kippur appeal of 1917. Abel Pann; AR 14-18, File 29.
JDC posters helped galvanize public awareness and involvement. U.S., 1917, Lou Mayer; Boston Public Library, 07-01-000051.
An estimated $16.5 million was raised by the end of the war. This famous poster depicted a serene figure of America offering her abundant bounty to widows, orphans, and refugees. U.S., c. 1917, Alfred Burke, Johnstone Studios; Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-05663.
Through the entire war, JDC fed Jerusalem’s hungry through existing facilities, such as the Teresa Dreyfus and Nathan Straus Soup Kitchens, and through newly created kitchens and distribution centers. In 1921, 1,800 poor from all backgrounds were still receiving at least one meal a day at the Dreyfus Soup Kitchen. Palestine, c. 1921, NY_00047.
In February 1916, JDC shipped a consignment of medicine and matzoh on the U.S.S. Sterling for Palestine by way of Alexandria. AR 14-18, File 216.
In May 1918, the Zionist Commission and Jewish community of Jerusalem held a reception for General Sir Edmund Allenby, leader of the British military campaign. With him were the commission head, Chaim Weizmann, fellow commissioners and British liaison officers, Major Ormsby-Gore and Major de Rothschild, and the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. Another commissioner, David de Sola Pool, became JDC’s Palestine representative. Palestine, 1918, NY_00174.
The Joint Distribution Committee met regularly to resolve a shifting array of challenges. This meeting took place in the office of JDC’s Chairman Felix Warburg (front center). One of its major supporters, Jacob Schiff, was seated to his right. U.S., 1918, Underwood and Underwood, NY_03405.
Wartime conditions made it impossible for American Jews to send money to relatives overseas. JDC opened a Transmission Bureau on January 1, 1915, with additional branches later in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and San Francisco. At the Educational Alliance, a haven for Jewish immigrants on New York's Lower East Side, a branch operated only on Saturday evenings. People lined up to make deposits, generally $5 or $10. By August 1918, the Bureau had handled close to $608,000 in remittances. U.S., c. 1918, NY_03488.
Established relief organizations were the earliest conduits for JDC support in Europe. The Vienna-based Israelitische Allianz zu Wien channeled JDC funds to Jewish communities and to refugees from Galicia, Bukovina, and elsewhere stranded in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A 1916 letter sent by the Allianz via the American Ambassador to Vienna reported on the vast extent of needs and response. AR 14-18, File 19.1. View this document as a PDF
Early on, JDC partnered in Europe with the Jewish Colonization Association (ICA or JCA), transmitting funds for Russia and its vast territories through the U.S. State Department. The Jewish Committee to Aid Victims of War (EKOPO) in Petrograd then dispensed the aid to relief committees throughout Russia, Poland, Romania, and Lithuania. In coordination with other Jewish agencies, these emergency provisions reached schools, hospitals, orphan homes, medical institutions, and the ever growing tide of refugees. AR 14-18, File 143.1. View this document as a PDF
Among the refugees fleeing Palestine during the war were thousands of American citizens. This first group of refugees had a slow and arduous journey across Turkey and many other countries to Switzerland, arriving many months later in New York. A second group followed. JDC advanced funds for trip expenses on behalf of their waiting families. U.S., 1917, NY_04924.
An urgent letter from the rabbi of Stockholm to the American Jewish Relief Committee described the upheaval facing Jews expelled from the Russian territories of Poland in May 1915. AR 14-18, File 113. View this document as a PDF
Elderly refugees, like this 75-year-old woman arriving in Bucharest, had the hardest time surviving the rigorous journey to safety. Romania, c. 1917, NY_14405.
One of the desperately poor institutions in Jerusalem receiving help from JDC during the war was Beth Zekenim Hasephardi (the Sephardic Home for the Aged). Palestine, c. 1921, NY_00050.
Food from Hadassah's Central Kitchen was distributed to JDC-supported centers throughout Jerusalem. Additionally, bread was provided daily for thousands of school children and orphans. Palestine, c. 1920, NY_00002.
A daily meal at JDC-funded food centers kept many Jews from starving. These children waited in a soup line in Lvov. Poland (now Ukraine), c. 1919, NY_01951.
Throughout the war, JDC provided meals for children at schools and nurseries. At Mendele’s Kindergarten and Community School in Bialystok, a hot lunch was much appreciated. Poland, 1918, NY_01435.
In August 1917, the new Holland Branch began its work. JDC sent Boris Bogen (sixth from left) and Max Senior (sixth from right) to supervise. With the help of Dutch diplomatic personnel all over the world, nearly $2 million was channeled to local committees in war-torn Jewish communities of Palestine and Europe. Holland, c. 1917, Central News Photo Service, NYC, NY_36298. Note: Among those crucial to JDC’s early development, Boris Bogen has been singled out for this exhibit. His involvement in events of that time reflected JDC’s evolving role.
Money was sent from New York to Washington, D.C. to Holland. Following JDC instructions, the new Branch then distributed funds. Eventually, needed supplies reached the waiting communities. Armed conflict and other regional conditions made this difficult. New York Times, July 2, 1917. View this document as a PDF
Jewish prisoners of war received JDC food packages through Holland and the Red Shield of David Society in Switzerland. For Passover 1917 and 1918, JDC obtained special War Trade Board licenses to send matzoh to POW's, chiefly from Russia and Romania, in German camps. A Passover meal at Skalmiershutz, five miles from the Polish frontier. Germany, 1917, NY_36363.
ARA Director (and future U.S. President) Herbert Hoover recruited Boris Bogen to oversee relief distribution in Poland. JDC agreed to direct funds and supplies through ARA on a non-sectarian basis. In return, Bogen and other JDC commissioners serving as ARA officials received the necessary sanctions to provide needy Jews with their fair share. An early Bogen passport. AR 19-21, File 31. View this document as a PDF
Bogen arrived in Poland in November 1918 to study the needs and problems of Jews first hand and begin to construct a more direct approach to relief distribution. In reports, he described his first impressions, including the disturbing sight of starved and homeless children: "If we asked one where he lived, he could not say, he could only tell us where he slept, under the steps of some house, he knew not where." AR 19-21, File 17. One of the children left homeless and orphaned by war. Poland, c. 1919, NY_02009.
In 1919, JDC 's first ARA shipment traveled on the U.S.S. Westward-Ho with 3,500 tons of rye flour, 1,500 tons of condensed milk, 1,000 tons of packaged goods, 500 tons of cottonseed oil, and $100,000 worth of children’s clothing. The $2 million cargo was heavily financed by JDC. While all Poles were eligible to receive aid, Jews formed a large percentage of those in need. U.S., 1919, NY_03479.
JDC's first cargo of preserved kosher beef was consigned to ARA in June 1919 and sailed for Danzig on the U.S.S. Ashburn. The meat was prepared according to Jewish ritual law under the authority of four New York rabbis. U.S., 1919, Underwood and Underwood, NY_03425.
Overseas Unit No. 1 arrived in Paris en route to Poland in February 1920. Their official dress was a modified version of the U.S. Army uniform. JDC's Director for Poland, Boris Bogen (seated, fourth from left), led the team. The Jewish Welfare Board's Overseas Director, Elkan Voorsanger (seated, fifth from left), was Unit Manager. A second unit followed later that year. France, c. 1920, NY_03406.
A chart from a five-month report showed Bogen's plan to divide up the continually expanding map of Poland into manageable districts. Unit members investigated local and regional needs firsthand and supervised the allocation of funds. A headquarters in Warsaw coordinated all work. But as the ongoing Polish-Soviet War changed the nation's borders, so did JDC's access to communities on the ground. AR 19-21, File 191. View this document as a PDF
Around this time, Dr. Julius Goldman became JDC's first Director-General for Europe, heading all activities from a central office in Paris. His assignment was formidable: supervise the regional representatives, negotiate with government officials, coordinate JDC's efforts with other organizations in the European Children's Fund, systematize the transport of goods, and communicate overall conditions in Europe so that shipping and appropriations could be managed effectively. AR 19-21, File 36. View this document as a PDF
Overseas Unit members started out learning the local needs and conditions in specific communities. Their input led to JDC restructuring its work along more functional lines, many of these now-seasoned employees were appointed to run the new departments. AR 19-21, File 68.2. View this document as a PDF
A new Publicity and Information Department drew from staff field reports and newly gathered surveys to inform the public and press. They also prepared in-house documents to aid in analyzing successes, failures, and further needs. This chart for relief funds spent in Poland covered the crucial post-war period prior to implementing new programs. Book of Statistical Charts… Poland Branch, 1921. View this document as a PDF
Whenever possible, JDC partnered with regional and local organizations. The Society for Health Care of the Jewish Population (OZE) had 45 branches in 102 cities. An OZE field report on war refugees told the unfolding story of disrupted lives, terrible living conditions, and unleashed epidemics. The Revolution disrupted JDC’s direct access to OZE and the people it served. AR 14-18, File 91. View this document as a PDF
The Russian Revolution and subsequent civil wars sent thousands of Jews fleeing through Vladivostok to Manchuria, China, and Japan. Yokohama became an important resting point for these refugees. Working with HIAS, JDC funded housing and other refugee needs there until more permanent settlement became possible. Japan, 1918, NY_04925.
The destruction of a bridge between Brest and Kobryn was one of numerous obstacles that JDC field representatives faced. Abraham Zucker and I. M. Kowalsky posed en route with a Polish Government representative. Poland (now Belarus), c. 1920. NY_01731.
After the Kiev pogrom in May 1920, members of the Demiev Synagogue salvaged what they could of their congregation's torn Torah scrolls. Ukraine, c. 1920, NY_00438.
In the aftermath of the May 1920 pogrom, JDC sent Overseas Unit 1 representatives to Polish-controlled Kiev. Captain Elkan Voorsanger and Dr. Charles Spivak (respectively seated in uniform) helped community leaders establish a local relief committee, providing them with money, food, and emergency supplies. Ukraine, c. 1920, NY_00440.
Among the organizations participating in the Soviet Committee to aid pogrom victims were some that had received JDC funds for years: the Jewish Committee to Aid Victims of War (EKOPO), the Society for Crafts and Agricultural Labor among Jews in Russia (ORT), and the Society for Health Care of the Jewish Population (OZE). A Kiev home for orphans of the May 1920 pogroms. Most were refugees from nearby small towns. Ukraine, c. 1920, NY_00430.
A polyclinic was established in Kremenchug in 1920. Ukraine, c. 1920, NY_00450.
A May 1921 list from JDC's Vladivostok Auxiliary Branch named families in Krivoje-Ozero directly harmed in pogroms and the leaders of the armed groups responsible. Even the barest facts conveyed the tragic impact of violence inflicted on Jewish families and communities. AR 19-21, File 260. View this document as a PDF
Hadassah founder Henrietta Szold organized the American Zionist Medical Unit (AZMU), a group of doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals. JDC helped subsidize the group's work. The Hadassah Bulletin, March 1918, noted JDC’s support of the Unit right from the start. AR 14-18, File 124. View this document as a PDF
As soon as travel was possible, the AZMU arrived with 400 tons of supplies and medical equipment. The Unit's initiatives included hospitals in Jerusalem, Jaffa, Tiberias, and Safed, clinics in seven locations, a school for training nurses, and regular health exams for Jerusalem school children-- all subsidized significantly by JDC. U.S., 1918, Underwood and Underwood, NY_04926.
JDC provided half the funding for the AZMU's extensive work, including community and preventive care health programs open to all. At one free clinic, patients waited for a doctor’s attention. Palestine, c. 1920, NY_00014.
JDC helped subsidize several medical institutions in Jerusalem, including the Sephardic Misgav Ladach birthing hospital, Shaare Zedek Hospital, and the Mayer Rothschild Hospital. The latter, seen here, was run by Hadassah's AZMU. Palestine, c. 1920, NY_00012.
In 1919, the Overseas Unit identified medical shortages of every kind. Even doctors were in scarce supply, as many had been killed at the front or had succumbed to disease themselves. A doctor in Sighet examined Jewish war orphans. Romania, 1919-1920, NY_00940.
Along with this April 1920 list of hospital supplies needed for Ukraine, JDC’s Medical Director, Dr. Harry Plotz, advised a large expansion of essential services. AR 19-21, File 255.1. View this document as a PDF
Desperate for a place to rest, exhausted refugees often crowded into makeshift shelters with no beds, like this synagogue in Brest. Such conditions spread disease quickly. One typhus epidemic was traced to four Ukrainian refugees sleeping in a synagogue in Rovno. Poland (now Ukraine), c. 1919, NY_14476.
Favus, a skin disease often affecting the scalp, was a common health problem. Easily contracted under the conditions of war, children were particularly susceptible. Treatment was given to young refugees at the JDC-subsidized quarantine station in Vilna. Poland (now Lithuania), c. 1921, NY_03979.
Working with Polish-Jewish medical aid organizations, JDC's Medical Unit helped revive, transform and finance almost 500 medical and sanitation institutions, including public baths, dispensaries, hospitals, sanitaria, X-ray stations, nursing schools, "Drop of Milk" centers, and well-baby stations. France, c. 1921, NY_03506.
JDC funded nursing schools to build a well-trained contingent of Jewish nurses. This school in Vilna produced such professionals. Poland (now Lithuania), c. 1921, NY_04150.
In 1921, JDC’s medical and sanitary personnel conducted health surveys and established child care programs in Poland, funded jointly with the American Red Cross. This Jewish Baby Health Station in Piotrkow was considered one of the best. Poland, c. 1921, NY_04244.
This excerpted survey of Latvian medical needs noted each town's population, birthrate, and mortality levels before and after the war, its health needs and available services. AR 1921, File 156.4. View this document as a PDF
After years of severe physical and mental distress, children's health was greatly compromised. The JDC-funded orphan relief committee of Mukacevo (Munkacs) conducted periodic medical checkups for their wards, including this child with heart disease. Czechoslovakia (now Ukraine), c. 1921, NY_01076.
In March 1920, JDC began supplying funds for coal to run the U.S. Army Medical Corps' delousing plants used in its non-sectarian anti-typhus mission in Poland. New York Times, March 5, 1920. View this document as a PDF
JDC sent medical teams to Polish cities and towns like Rovno, where refugees gathered and disease was rampant. They brought with them portable delousing machines, which heated clothing and blankets to very high temperatures. Poland (now Ukraine), c. 1921, NY_04155.
At a milk station in Vienna, refugee Jewish children drank their daily supply of warm milk. Local children in need of supplemental nutrition were also served. Austria, 1919, NY_01244.
During the war, OZE had sent doctors, nurses, and nutritionists to bring emergency medical relief to refugees and other displaced persons in Russian-held territories. With JDC's expanded funding, OZE ran clinics, hospitals, canteens, children's nutrition centers, milk stations, kindergartens, summer camps, and playgrounds in the war's aftermath. An OZE Milk Station in Bialystok focused on infants and young children. Poland, c. 1921, NY_01724.
Colonies for restoring children's health focused on refugees and orphans. After years of war and pogroms, JDC decided that additional colonies were crucial. In 1920, around 25,000 children attended summer colonies, such as this one in the town of Soroka. Romania (now Moldova), c. 1920, M. Cligher, NY_00974.
Cities and towns could be reached by trains (where they were still operating), but JDC staff depended on cars and trucks to reach hundreds of more isolated villages and to move quickly from one place to another. Still, most motor vehicles of that time were open to the elements, required hand-cranking to start the engine, and reached a top speed of 40-45 mph. Roads could not be counted on, either. Poland, c. 1920, NY_05102.
When no other means of transportation was available, JDC representatives made do with horse-drawn wagons. On this trip between Dubno and Rovno, one horse collapsed from exhaustion. Poland (now Ukraine), c. 1921, NY_01705.
Many hands were needed to get this JDC vehicle across a river on a crude wooden bridge during a field trip to Rovno, Dubno, and Polonnoye. By November 1920, the Poland Branch had 20 cars and 40 trucks for such trips. Poland (now Ukraine), c. 1920, NY_01703.
The sight of JDC workers bringing food drew attention from hungry villagers in Dachowa. Where 500 Jewish homes stood before the war, fewer than ten remained. JDC would soon provide reconstruction help as well as immediate aid. Poland, c. 1920-1921, NY_01725.
Shoes and clothing -- from underwear to overcoats -- became treasures beyond reach due to sky-rocketing prices, devalued currency, and curtailed production. These desperate people in Moscow received shoes from JDC. Russia, c. 1920, NY_00589.
JDC provided $500,000 in clothing to children in Poland through ARA's European Children's Fund. Shoes, hats, and stockings were furnished to these orphans in Grodno, but other items were still in short supply. To bridge the gap, JDC workers converted the sacks which had carried flour for the poor. Poland (now Belarus), c. 1920, International News Photos, NY_01952.
As prices climbed and supplies dwindled, thousands ended up shoeless and in rags. Itemized lists of goods in JDC warehouses made designated shipping possible with short notice. This one from the central warehouse in Warsaw appeared in the JDC Information Service Letter, September 1920. AR 19-21, File 45. View this document as a PDF
Because currency during war was unstable, JDC sometimes sent supplies, sometimes cash. Local committees dispersed these funds. Once JDC opened distribution offices in cities like Sighet, money was transmitted through them. Romania, 1919, NY_00936.
The ongoing war between Poland and Russia made travel to precarious border towns especially dangerous. On a trip to Brest, Kovel, Kobryn, Domoczowe, Kamianitz Lit, Luck, Vilna, Brody, Lvov, Lublin, and Warsaw, JDC staffer Abraham Zucker and his Polish guards ran into vehicle trouble only 8½ miles from the front line. Poland (now Belarus, Ukraine, Lithuania, and Poland), c. 1920, NY_04637.
The dangers faced by members of the Overseas Unit became tragically apparent when two JDC workers were murdered. Professor Israel Friedlander and Dr. Bernard Cantor (front center and right) were killed in July 1920, while bringing aid to war and pogrom victims in Ukraine. NY_01698.
In the summer of 1920, Soviet troops brought their battle with Polish forces to the very gates of Warsaw. On Franciszkanska Street, whatever Jewish properties withstood the battle were looted and damaged in its aftermath. Poland, c. 1920, NY_01660.
Soldiers from many nations were imprisoned during the war. Around 160,000 POWs from the German and Austro-Hungarian armies languished in Siberian camps, including 10,000 Jews. In Spring 1919, Dr. Frank Rosenblatt arrived with JDC funds and clothes and, later that year, opened a Far East Branch in Vladivostok to aid the displaced. A Prisoner of War ID card. Russia, c. 1920, POW Vladivostok ID.
JDC's Far East Branch in Vladivostok assisted POWs, transmitting mail to relatives abroad, providing information on passports and visas, organizing camp welfare committees, and arranging hospital care for the seriously ill. In April 1920, the Fund for Repatriation of Siberian War Prisoners was established, financed chiefly by JDC and the American Red Cross. Thousands of stranded men were sent home by year’s end. This excerpted passenger list included details about the men's ages, professions, and home towns. AR 19-21, File 272.
In early 1915, the Russian Government had forcibly expelled Jews with only twelve hours notice from Lithuania and parts of Latvia and Romania. Old men, sick women, and young children alike had to leave with only the possessions they could carry and move to the Russian interior. Refugees could not go home until hostilities ended in 1920. These returning refugees shared a one-room shelter in Jaunjelgava. Latvia, c. 1921, NY_08663.
Bringing what meager household goods could be rescued amid the terror of war and political upheavals, caravans of homeless, starving, and sometimes ill Jews arrived without money or a place to sleep in the towns along the Polish border. Refugees shared a makeshift house on the road between Kovel and Rovno. Poland (now Ukraine), c. 1920, NY_05059.
A constant stream of refugees passed through the border towns of Eastern Europe. A Fall 1920 report for Bessarabia noted: "…Every border town has its share…persons without funds, clothes, strength, courage, and full of fear, despair, and fertility for the ravages of illnesses which follow closely and some times accompany the winter snows and frosts. What can be done?" AR 19-21, File 236.2. In Rovno, some 6,000 children whose parents had been massacred arrived on their own. c. 1920-1921, Poland (now Ukraine), NY_05076.
JDC field workers needed ingenuity as well as courage while aiding Polish Jews in towns under attack. Overseas Unit member Abraham Shohan brought relief to the most dangerous district of Poland (now Ukraine). His June 1920 field report detailing supply shifts between Luck (Lutsk) and nearby Kovel vividly conveyed the challenges involved. AR 19-21, File 225.2. View this document as a PDF
Once it was possible to return home, many Jews tried to make their way back home from Russia. By the time this woman and her children reached the town of Luck, they had spent four months on the road. Poland (now Ukraine), c. 1920-1921, NY_01674.
The Palestine Orphan Committee sent out a network of social workers to visit more than 4,000 orphans supported in institutions and in private homes in Jerusalem, Jaffa, Haifa, Tiberias, Safed, Hebron, and elsewhere in Palestine. Unified record-keeping made it possible to keep track of each child. Infants slept peacefully at the Aliza Maon Infants Orphanage. Palestine, c. 1920, NY_00017.
By March 1915, some 12,000 refugees from Palestine had been expelled by the Turkish government to Alexandria, Egypt. They lived there mostly in camps, with emergency relief provided by JDC. This little girl, born in one of the camps, lost her father there to typhus. Once back in Jerusalem, she received aid from JDC's newly created Palestine Orphan Committee. The amount allotted for each child was generally based on whether one parent or none remained. Palestine, c. 1924, NY_00213.
JDC's increased allotments made it possible to provide children better care, including supplemented nourishment, new winter and summer clothing, and where needed, more sanitary quarters. In a Yemenite kindergarten in Neve Sha'anan, Jerusalem, wholesome lunches helped restore these youngsters to good health. Palestine, c. 1920, NY_00005.
Child care assistance expanded to instruct new mothers in infant care at Hadassah child welfare centers. Palestine, c. 1920, NY_00011.
Through the European Children's Fund, JDC assisted needy orphans on a non-sectarian basis. During 1919-1920, it contributed $200,000 to the Fund for orphans in Hungary. At the largest feeding station, a former leather goods factory in Ujpest, 5,000 received a hearty meal daily. AR 19-21, File 150.1.
Children & teachers in a JDC-supported orphanage kindergarten in Brest. Poland (now Belarus), c. 1921, NY_01444.
JDC launched Financial Adoption, a program for individual orphan support, at the end of 1919. American and Canadian Jewish women's organizations participated. Where possible, orphans were linked to family members in America with the hope of their being adopted. AR 19-21, File 48.
For many children, soup and bread at a JDC-subsidized soup kitchen had been the only meal of the day. But as funds and conditions in Eastern Euopean countries allowed, JDC's child care work continually expanded. A functionally structured Child Care Department was launched in Fall 1920. Eastern Europe, c. 1920, Underwood and Underwood, NY_07225.
Where possible, JDC subsidized Jewish schools during the war. Many schools were forcibly abandoned, and refugee children had little opportunity for education. In the post-war years, the number of institutions receiving support increased. The Central Committee's funds supported talmud torahs and yeshivot. The melamed of a JDC-supported cheder instructed his pupils. Poland, c. 1918, NY_01412.
The Jewish People‘s Relief Committee supported “Workingmen‘s” institutions such as the Jewish Community School of the “Workman's Home”. A group photo proudly featured a Star of David flag. Poland, c.1919-1920, NY_01410.
The American Jewish Relief Committee supported Hebrew, Yiddish, and "non-partisan" schools not supported by the other two Committees. A group from the Vizhenka Jewish Educational Children's Colony near Czernowitz (Bukovina). Romania (now Ukraine), 1920, NY_00909.
Through 1919 and 1920, repeated incursions by warring armies tore down first attempts at rebuilding. Still, a prevailing belief in "self support" is clearly expressed in this telegram from Poland. AR 19-21, File 189. View this document as a PDF
To initiate discussion at a conference in August 1919, a JDC report noted hopefully: "The Jewish capacity for an orderly communal existence, for mutual cooperation, has not been destroyed by its terrific trials." AR 19-21, File 22.2. Jacques Rieur, JDC Director for the "Congress Poland" region in 1920, met with the Lublin Children's Committee to plan a million mark fund for a summer colony. Poland, c. 1920, NY_01690.
A report on loans in Poland prior to May 1921 listed the amounts given in each town by JDC, local sources, and Landsmanschaften. AR 19-21, File 213.1. View this document as a PDF
Through the war years, attempts to reach loved ones in the midst of closed borders, warfare, imprisonment, and forced evacuations often failed. In 1919, JDC sought to increase the Transmission Bureau’s “usefulness and sphere of action” as it established new conduits for relief throughout Europe. Seekers petitioned from both sides of the world. AR 19-21, File 266.1. View this document as a PDF
JDC’s Personal Service Department brought the first word of missing family or friends in years to European and American Jews alike. In the New York office, people pored over lists of refugees recently reached by American Jewish relief agents in Poland. Poland, c. 1920, NY_03503.
“Landsmanschaften” aided immigrants from the same Eastern European locality settling in America. After the war, as needs back home became known, each small group set up its own relief project. Some sent delegates abroad. In August 1920, JDC established a department to coordinate these efforts, understanding the valuable role the societies played in linking contributors to their home towns. Horodyszcze Relief Society's questionnaire noted that most of the town had been destroyed. AR 19-21, File 79.3. View this document as a pdf.
Local committees, such as this one in Krynki, near Grodno, received their town’s remittances through JDC’s Landsmannschaft Department. Loan funds and co-operatives also received some funding in this way. Poland (now Belarus), c. 1921, NY_04355.
Beginning in 1920, the branches of the cooperative Jewish Volksbank served as JDC‘s agents in Lithuanian cities like Kedainai, and for nearby towns that had no bank of their own. These in turn could loan money to cooperatives, which provided food, clothing, fuel, and raw materials for free or very low prices. Lithuania, c. 1923, NY_07381.
As hundreds of thousands of refugees returned to their former homes, they often found an empty shell or bare ground. By May 1920, $100,000 had been apportioned to repair partially ruined houses in Bukovina, Bessarabia, and Romania. In some towns, like Suczawa (Bukovina), destruction was too great for repairs. This man was one of the homeowners seeking loans to completely rebuild. Romania, c. 1920-1921, NY_04612.
Grodno was one of the cities pulled back and forth in the tug of war for domain between Soviet Russia and Poland. Amid the ruins of this outlying area, repairs and reconstruction begun with JDC loans were the start of new hope and tangible recovery. Poland (now Belarus), c. 1921, NY_03091.
Among the ruined buildings JDC purchased, this one in Brest was turned into a home for orphans. Poland (now Belarus), c. 1921, NY_05043.
These shopwomen of Brest had their businesses decimated in the war. With JDC-funded loans, they started over by selling their wares on the street. Poland (now Belarus), c. 1920, International News Photos, NY_01727.
JDC advanced funds to these loan societies in one district of Poland in May 1921. AR 19-21, File 213.1. View this document as a PDF
Urban industry in Palestine had been limited largely to souvenirs and religious articles. This workshop for unskilled labor in Jerusalem, established before the war by the Nathan Straus Foundation, made buttons and curios from locally-found shells and stones. With JDC funding, the workshop expanded to employ more workers, including older orphans. Palestine, c. 1921, Lavan Dov Studios, NY_00131.
The Shoshana Lace and Embroidery School in Jerusalem was one of many JDC-supported ateliers and schools operating after the war, to provide employable skills to previously uneducated young women. Palestine, c. 1921, NY_00112.
This successful workshop in basket and mat-weaving gave employment to elderly men and drew government contracts. JDC helped obtain other types of government work projects in road building, stone cutting, and drainage improvement for the 1200 - 1500 refugees arriving each month in Palestine. Palestine, c. 1920, NY_00091.
The Jewish Blind Institute (Beth Chinuch Ivrim) in Jerusalem was one of the existing institutions revived by JDC’s subsidies. Classes for students 6-16 included weaving, writing, and music. Girls played piano and string instruments, and boys played wind instruments. Palestine, c. 1921, NY_00089.
Education opportunities were developed for the more employable trades. In this carpentry workshop in Kracow, boys were taught building skills. Poland, c. 1920, NY_03917.
This loan applicant from Storozynetz (Bukovina) sought support to apprentice his three sons, one of whom suffered from shell shock. Romania (now Ukraine), c. 1920-1921, NY_04630.
JDC revived and initiated hundreds of trade workshops in the immediate post-war years to expand work opportunities for Jews, especially youth. A report on such industrial development for the Krakow district listed schools and courses supported by JDC in November 1920. AR 19-21, File 213.1. View this document as a PDF
After the war’s end, JDC expanded funding for agricultural training in Palestine. Students learned everything from barley planting to bee-keeping. AR 19-21, File 183.1. View this document as a PDF
These men and women trained in Patatsnege for the day when they could settle in Palestine. Lithuania, c. 1920, NY_00355.
At war's end, Bessarabia became part of Romania. The number of Jewish farmers there was second only to Palestine. JDC helped support agricultural colonies administered through the Jewish Colonization Association. Sheep grazed peacefully at the Jewish Colony of Menzia (Manzia). Romania (now Moldova), c. 1920, NY_00948.
JDC also funded agricultural programs for school children. Students in boarding schools and orphan asylums learned to grow vegetable gardens under the guidance of trained instructors, provided by ORT. These children tended the garden at Mendele's Kindergarten and Community School at the Bialystok Jewish Youth Union. Poland, c. 1918, NY_01436.
Even after shifting its focus to reconstruction and rehabilitation, JDC would continue to provide emergency relief whenever a new crisis occurred. In late 1921, JDC partnered again with ARA in Ukraine and Crimea, sending food, clothing, and medicines to devastated communities, with a particular focus on children’s needs. A poster in Russian advertised an ARA food kitchen run with JDC's cooperation. Ukraine, c. 1921-1922, NY_00394.
This Unit House dinner for Dr. Bogen was held July 15, 1921, on the cusp of JDC's new era of reconstructive work. In his next report, Bogen wrote: “There can be no question but that the relief rendered by the J.D.C. to Poland saved thousands and thousands from starvation, sustained the life of institutions, stimulated social organization, and served as a moral power, protecting the Jews from their enemies and developing their own spirit which would otherwise have been crushed.” AR 19-21, File 66. Poland, c. 1921, NY_05143.