A Timely Seder
This historic silent footage from the film, "Passover 1947 Vienna," is featured on our web exhibit: “Everything Possible: JDC and the Children of the DP Camps.” The clips depict JDC's extensive efforts to create a memorable Passover for Jews in post-war Vienna. Holiday supplies, from chicken and oranges, to matzos and wine, were distributed to the Viennese Jewish community. JDC also provided for some 30,000 displaced persons in camps.
Two seders are shown in this footage: the first took place at the Rothschild Transit Camp under the leadership of Chief Rabbi Ernst Israel. The second seder, for 700 Jewish Holocaust survivors (many of whom had lost their families), was led by Rabbi Isidor Oehler of Vienna. JDC and community officials took part, as did Cantor Morgenstern and his choir, from the old Budapest Synagogue.
Every effort was made to provide Jewish survivors in DP camps the means to restore their cultural and religious practices. For many children, this was the first opportunity to experience a seder, and to learn the Exodus account, where Jews freed from slavery arrived in Israel, the Promised Land--- a story that resonated with their own difficult journey and, for many, the promise of a future in Jerusalem.
For complete exhibit, click here.
Symbol of Freedom: Seder Plate Distributed in Displaced Persons Camps
Passover celebrates the liberation of the Jewish people. The JDC Seder Plate, produced in 1947 for distribution amongst Jewish Displaced Persons of the Holocaust, served not only as a functional ritual object but as a symbol of postwar revival of Jewish life. By the end of World War II, 250,000 Jewish refugees were living in Displaced Persons camps in Germany, Italy and Austria, and JDC provided matza, wine and other supplies to nearly 1 million Jews throughout Europe.
The plate’s inscription “Next Year in Jerusalem” carried significant meaning, as many European refugees were eagerly awaiting the opportunity to immigrate to Palestine; studying the Hebrew language and working on agricultural training farms in preparation for the pioneering life in the Promised Land. This became a reality for many in the following year, with the establishment of a Jewish state in 1948.
JDC’s program for Passover of 1948 was the greatest and most expansive in the organization’s history, yet it was far from the only instance that JDC provided Passover-related assistance to global Jewry. As early as 1918, JDC provided matza to Jewish soldiers in the Polish army. Providing free Passover food, matza flour, and matza became a JDC mainstay for Jews in need in places as far-flung as Iran, Cuba and Ethiopia.
Yet another hallmark in JDC’s history was Operation Seder in the spring of 1990, the first Passover celebrated after the fall of the Berlin Wall. After seventy years of Communist repression forcing Jews to practice in secrecy, JDC heroically organized public seders for 10,000 Soviet Jews in the Former Soviet Union, where Jews were able to commune together and assert their Jewish identities. JDC trained young Israeli and American volunteers to lead Seders across the USSR, allowing for a point of contact and cultural exchange between Israeli, American and Russian Jews.
As Jews Today Celebrate the Siyum HaShas, Remembering the Publication of the “JDC Talmud”
For those who’ve partaken in the custom of reading one page of the oral law every day for seven and a half years, August 1, 2012 marks the completion of the reading of the entire Babylonion Talmud. The compendium of Oral Jewish law is being celebrated today, with tens of thousands of Jews worldwide celebrating the 2,711 pages of commentary and legal writing that govern the traditional Jewish lifestyle.
During the reign of the Nazis, the continuity of Jewish scholarship was threatened with volumes of the Talmud, liturgical books and publications Jewish in content and authorship being ransacked and burned. The Nazis left few stones unturned, and after the war Jews in the Displaced Persons camps seeking spiritual fulfillment and instructive religious learning could not find copies of the Talmud to study.
In 1946, JDC joined forces with the U.S. Army to ambitiously reissue the Vilna edition of the Talmud. The U.S. Army printed 50 sets of the work, and JDC undertook the financing, printing and distribution of an additional 1000 copies. Each set of the “Survivors’ Talmud,” also referred to as “the JDC Talmud,” comprised 19 volumes, distributed to institutions of higher learning and rabbinic scholars. JDC’s financial commitment and logistical know-how saved the day, helping to resurrect Jewish scholarship after Hitler sought to destroy it.
A Silent Yizkor
Born in Poland in 1920, Stanley Abramovitch has spent over sixty years in the service of JDC and the Jewish people, aiding the needy in over twenty countries on three continents. His work took him from the DP camps in Germany to the impoverished communities of Iran and North Africa, and from Western Europe and Israel to the Former Soviet Union. A masterly story-teller, Stanley describes a moving Yom Kippur that he spent with Holocaust survivors in Landsberg, Bavaria. Click here for link to the article.