In response to the onset of World War I and the devastation it wreaks on thousands of Jewish communities in war-torn regions, the newly-formed American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee initiates massive relief projects in Palestine to sustain fragile communities and across Eastern Europe to support communities devastated by the war.
August 31, 1914
Founding telegram sent by Amb. Henry Morgenthau to New York requesting $50,000 in aid for Palestinian Jewry
Henry Morgenthau Sr., U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, cables prominent American Jewish leader Jacob Schiff in New York appealing for $50,000 (equal to $1 million today) in aid to be dispatched immediately to the 60,000 Jews in Ottoman-ruled Palestine who are cut off from traditional sources of support in the European Jewish community by the outbreak of World War I. American Jewish donors promptly wire the sum.
November 27, 1914
JDC officially forms
A month after Amb. Morgenthau’s initial telegram, two American Jewish relief committees, the Central Relief Committee for the Relief of Jews and the American Jewish Relief Committee, merge to form the Joint Distribution Committee of American Funds for the Relief of Jewish War Sufferers. Subsequently, the People’s Relief Committee becomes the third constituent agency of the Joint Distribution Committee. Fundraising for aid to Jewish refugees is catalyzed by President Wilson’s designation of January 27, 1916 as Jewish Relief Day.
Establishes Transmission Department
The Transmission Department of the JDC is established in 1915 to deliver personal remittances to those areas in Europe and Palestine where normal transmission agencies are unable to function under war conditions. Relatives from the West are able to deposit small amounts of money (typically $5 or $10, up to $100) for JDC to remit to their relatives overseas.
Dispatches U.S.S. Vulcan to Palestine with medical relief
In March 1915, JDC dispatches some $1.5 million in relief, along with 900 tons of food and medicine, to Palestine on the U.S.S. Vulcan.
U.S. State Department permits distribution of JDC funds to European Jews through Holland
JDC receives permission from the U.S. State Department to establish a committee of Dutch representatives to administer relief funds to European Jews in enemy-occupied countries during World War I.
Partners with American Relief Administration
In partnership with the American Relief Administration (A.R.A.), JDC sends convoys of food, clothing, and medicines to Jewish communities in Eastern Europe devastated by World War I and subsequent regional conflicts, pogroms, and famine.
Designates funds to assist Jews in Abyssinia (now Ethiopia)
JDC’s Executive Committee allocates $12,000 to enable Dr. Jacques Faitlovich to travel to Abyssinia (now Ethiopia), with medical supplies and other relief commodities. Faitlovich’s goal is to establish a medical clinic and to provide general relief to Falasha (Ethiopian) Jews.
Creates Palestine Orphan Committee to care for war orphans
JDC establishes the Palestine Orphan Committee to care for over 4,000 children orphaned in World War I and its aftermath. Subsequently, JDC’s orphan work evolves into a broad system of social services for children, such as summer camps, trade schools, and workshops. By 1925, JDC’s Child Care Department is engaged in fostering local and central childcare organizations in Poland and other countries in Eastern Europe.
Supports Austrian Jewish community’s efforts to assist Polish Jewish refugees
JDC assists the Austrian Jewish community in providing for the thousands of Jewish refugees from Poland, Galicia, Belgium, England, and France who, destabilized by World War I, are flooding into Vienna. Over the course of three months in 1919 alone, JDC supports over 15,000 refugees, offering free medical care, clothing, shelter and food, and establishing a hospital clinic and several orphan asylums. Moreover, JDC arranges for the transportation of handicapped child refugees from Vienna to private organizations and families in Denmark, Holland, and Switzerland to recuperate; clothing, equipment, and travel costs for each child are paid by JDC.
JDC expands its postwar relief efforts in Eastern Europe, including establishing Jewish health and welfare societies in Poland and the Soviet Union and funding public health programs in Lithuania and Romania. In Palestine, JDC begins to extend subsidies to public health organizations and promotes economic and agricultural development.
“First Unit” of JDC staff arrives in Poland
The first JDC medical mission arrives in Poland in 1920. The unit, comprising physicians, public health specialists, social workers, and an Orthodox rabbi, partners with Polish Jewish organizations to set up hospitals, pediatric clinics, and milk stations.
JDC provides support for the Russian Jewish health care organization OZE
OZE (Obshchestvo Zdravookhraneniia Evreev, “Society for the Protection of the Health of the Jews”), a Russian Jewish health and welfare system dedicated to battling contagious diseases and promoting hygienic conditions, partners with JDC to continue providing medical assistance and operating clinics throughout the country.
Transmits requests for assistance from Eastern Europe Jews to American relatives
JDC representatives in Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland transmit requests for affidavits, transportation funds, clothing and other assistance from Jews overseas to their relatives in the United States. These communications take place via JDC’s Personal Services Bureau at its New York headquarters.
JDC assists in the establishment of TOZ, a Polish Jewish welfare system.
JDC provides funds to TOZ (Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia Ludnosci Zydowskiej, “Society for the Protection of the Health of the Jews”), a Polish Jewish health and welfare system modeled after the Russian health care organization OSE. JDC also funds the Nurses Training School in Warsaw, which is subsequently recognized by the League of Nations for the accomplishments of its graduates.
Funds medical research units in Palestine
With a grant from Justice Louis D. Brandeis, JDC funds the Malaria Research Unit to combat malaria in Palestine. JDC also finances the American Zionist Medical Unit, a forerunner of the Hadassah Medical Organization, in Palestine. Hadassah is an American Zionist Women’s Organization founded in 1912.
JDC establishes Central Bank of Cooperative Institutions to finance agricultural projects in Palestine
In collaboration with the Jewish Colonization Association, JDC establishes the Central Bank of Cooperative Institutions. This organization finances agricultural projects in Palestine, promotes economic development, and encourages the growth of the developing citrus industry.
American Jewish Joint Agricultural Corporation (Agro-Joint) formed in Soviet Union
With the consent of the Soviet government, Agro-Joint (the American Jewish Joint Agricultural Corporation) trains and resettles some 70,000 so-called “nonproductive” Jews as farmers in Ukraine and the Crimea. By 1936, when the Soviet industrialization program and the extension of citizens’ rights to formerly deprived classes lure settlers to the cities, Jews are actively working the land and managing livestock in communally run settlements. Agro-Joint also funds medical care, homes for the aged, orphan care, vocational training, loan funds, workshops and cooperatives in the cities.
Under the threat of imminent war, JDC’s multi-faceted support to the German Jewish community becomes even more critical as restrictions passed by the Nazi government render German Jews unable to continue their education or earn a livelihood. In response to this catastrophic situation, JDC draws upon its resources to rescue and aid refugees in their flight from Nazi Europe to locations across the globe. JDC is forced to end its Agro-Joint work in the Soviet Union.
European HQ forced to move from Berlin to Paris
From 1924 to Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, Berlin is the home of JDC’s European Headquarters. JDC is the primary distributor of overseas aid to German Jews. After JDC’s European Headquarters in Berlin is ransacked, JDC moves its European Headquarters to Paris.
Continues to provide aid to German Jews
JDC assistance to the German Jewish community, which is suffering under the new rules of the Nazi government, expands under emergency circumstances. As Jews are forced out of schools and professions, the pauperization of the German Jewish community reaches a state of emergency. JDC continues to fund a variety of critical services, including medical and child care, vocational and agricultural training, and free loan cooperatives for German Jews, with emigration from Germany receiving the heaviest focus. Between 1933 and 1942, JDC allocations to Germany total over $4.5 million.
JDC expelled from Soviet Union
In 1938, the Soviet government terminates JDC’s Agro-Joint (American Jewish Joint Agricultural Corporation) program, which had been formed with the consent of the Soviet government in 1924 to train and resettle Jews as farmers in Ukraine and the Crimea. The colonies and trade programs are absorbed into the State system. At this juncture, many Agro-Joint leaders and colonists have also been arrested as part of the Great Terror orchestrated by Stalin.
Establishes agricultural settlement for German Jewish refugees in Dominican Republic
After the Dominican Republic offers to take in refugees at the Evian Conference in 1938, JDC founds the Dominican Republic Settlement Association (DORSA), which establishes an agricultural settlement for over 700 Jewish refugees in Sosúa, in the north of the Dominican Republic.
Supports Jewish refugees in Shanghai
In 1938, the Committee for the Assistance of European Jewish Refugees in Shanghai (CAEJF) is organized. Over the next few years, JDC supplies most of the funds needed to support approximately 15,000 Jews who survive the war in Shanghai after the Japanese occupiers cut off further immigration. Many of the refugees live in the Hongkew neighborhood. Two JDC staff arrive in 1941 to guide refugee aid and emigration activities. Though the Japanese classify them as enemy aliens, the two staff are permitted to remain at liberty until February 1943, when they are interned. From 1946, when emigration resumes, to 1953, JDC helps some 16,000 Jews emigrate from China.
Aids Jewish refugees in Cuba
12,000 Jewish refugees arrive in Cuba between 1938 and 1944. The majority are assisted by JDC, receiving vocational training, business loans, and job placement assistance. JDC funds are used to place refugees in the diamond industry, a growing field that attracts skilled Jewish refugees from Holland and Belgium. JDC also collaborates with the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization, in founding Finca Paso Seco, an agricultural retraining farm on the outskirts of Havana for 50 German Jewish refugees.
Persuades European governments to offer sanctuary to German Jewish refugees on S.S. St. Louis
In May 1939, a Hamburg-American liner, the S.S. St. Louis, sails from Germany to Cuba with over 900 German refugees. Upon their arrival in Cuba, the refugees are refused admittance because their landing papers have been voided. Despite efforts by the National Coordinating Committee and JDC to put up a substantial cash bond if the refugees are permitted to disembark, the St. Louis is forced to start back towards Germany. The United States, in response to the prevailing isolationism of the American public, does not offer sanctuary to the refugees. JDC representatives begin extensive and feverish deliberations with various European refugee relief agencies, promising that JDC would guarantee the maintenance cost of the passengers. Finally, in June 1939, the governments of Belgium, England, France, and Holland, persuaded by JDC’s financial guarantees, the fact that a number of the refugees had American quota numbers, and by the global publicity that the voyage receives, agree to take in the refugees.
Supports free loan societies in Poland
JDC supports over 1,000 free loan societies (kassas) in Poland, enabling Jewish artisans and shopkeepers to remain in business despite boycotts and physical harassment.
As World War II ends, JDC marshals its forces to meet a crisis of staggering proportions for world Jewry. Its vast relief and rehabilitation programs serve hundreds of thousands of Holocaust survivors worldwide, whether in Displaced Persons camps in Europe or forming the first waves of immigration to the new State of Israel. In Israel, JDC forms a unique partnership with the fledgling government to develop social service policies and institutions.
European Headquarters in Paris closes as Nazis advance; Lisbon becomes new center
The advance of the German Army forces JDC to close its Paris headquarters. Neutral Portugal ultimately becomes the new center for directing welfare programs and moving Jews to Palestine and the port of embarkation for most refugee evacuations to many destinations across the globe. Between 1936 and 1944, JDC allocates more than $1.1 million for refugee aid in Portugal, most of which was expended following the Nazi takeover of France.
Polish refugees in Japan
In 1941, 2,000 Polish Jewish refugees in Lithuania receive visas to Japan. JDC subsidizes their travel expenses.
Operates relief institutions in Poland, including the Warsaw Ghetto
JDC provides funds to shelters, soup kitchens, and other welfare institutions that, by 1941, were assisting 630,000 Polish Jews in 408 cities and towns across the country. Moreover, JDC also supports feeding and medical programs and educational and cultural activities in the Warsaw Ghetto.
JDC aid reaches European countries under enemy occupation
To aid Nazi refugees across Europe, Saly Mayer, a Swiss businessman and former President of the Swiss Jewish community who serves as the JDC representative, forms connections with neutral embassies in Switzerland and with the International Red Cross, who then transmit aid to Jewish refugees. Subsequently, Mayer undertakes negotiations with Germans to halt deportations of Jews from occupied lands. He is able to effect the only sustained talks with Nazis from the Allied side during World War II, and manages to bring about the only actual meeting between a Nazi representative and an American diplomat on November 5, 1944 in Zurich.
Sends relief packages to Jewish Russian refugees via Iran
JDC organizes relief packages for Jewish refugees in Asiatic Russia via Tehran, Iran. Over the next five years, over 250,000 packages are sent.
War Refugee Board is created by FDR; JDC becomes primary funder
After the War Refugee Board, a project of Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr., is established by an Executive Order from President Roosevelt on January 22, 1944, JDC becomes the primary funder. The Board is instructed to take all measures to rescue victims of enemy oppression in imminent danger. JDC funds facilitate the rescue of Jews residing in Budapest and assist in the support of Romanian Jews during the last years of Marshal Ion Antonescu’s rule. JDC funds also support children’s shelters under international protection in Budapest and the rescue operations of neutral diplomats such as Raoul Wallenberg and Carl Lutz.
European Director accompanies Pres. Truman’s Special Envoy to displaced persons camps
Joseph Schwartz, JDC European Director, accompanies Earl Harrison, President Truman’s Special Envoy, on an official tour of the displaced persons (DP) camps, arguing for the need for special living arrangements for Jewish survivors. Harrison’s resultant report eventually persuades the U.S. and the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) to create and administer separate camps for Jewish displaced persons within the U.S. Zone.
Mobilizes comprehensive services to refugees in DP camps in Germany and Austria
At the end of World War II, Allied forces hastily set up displaced persons (DP) camps to house hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the war. JDC partners with other relief organizations to provide supplementary food, clothing, equipment, vocational training programs, educational and religious materials, legal representation, and emigration assistance to survivors in DP camps. It is estimated that by 1947, about 250,000 Jewish refugees pass through the DP camps,and receive assistance from JDC. After the State of Israel is established in 1948 and the United States passes its Displaced Persons Act, DP camps are closed and the number of Jews served by JDC drops precipitously. Nevertheless, in 1952, JDC is still assisting some 15,500 DPs who are having difficulty finding permanent places of resettlement.
August 1946-February 1949
Provides for refugees in British detention camps in Cyprus
In August 1946, the British government initiates a policy of deporting Jews who try to enter Palestine illegally, in violation of the immigration quotas for Jews set by the White Paper of 1939, and houses them in internment camps on British-controlled Cyprus. The majority of the refugees are Holocaust survivors. JDC offers its assistance to care for the refugees. By the time the internment camps close in February 1949, JDC spends approximately $2 million on providing for some 55,000 refugees during their 30 months of internment. This care includes supplementary food rations, clothing, equipment, vocational training programs, educational and religious materials, legal representation, and emigration assistance.
Organizes and funds Operation Magic Carpet (Yemen)
Between June 1949 and September 1950, JDC organizes and finances (at a cost of $3.5 million) Operation Magic Carpet. Termed “the largest human airlift in history,” this operation evacuates about 48,000 Jews from Yemen, Asmara, Djibouti, and Aden on flights chartered by Alaska Airlines to the newly established State of Israel. Prior to the flights and after the Yemenite Jews arrive in Israel, JDC organizes educational, vocational and language instruction classes to prepare immigrants for their new lives in Israel.
Founds organization to serve handicapped in partnership with Israeli government
JDC, in cooperation with the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli government, creates MALBEN to provide institutional care and social services handicapped, elderly, and chronically ill immigrants, establish hospitals, clinics and old-age homes and foster the development of private and public organizations in Israel for the care of the handicapped. From 1951 until 1975, when JDC formally withdraws from direct administration and transfers remaining geriatric facilities to Israel’s Health Ministry, MALBEN is financed solely by JDC.
Establishes Jewish community social welfare agency in France
JDC provides funds and technical assistance for the Fonds Social Juif Unifié (FSJU), the chief social welfare body of the French Jewish community.
Cold War shuts down JDC operations behind Iron Curtain
Falling victim to Cold War tensions, JDC was expelled from Romania, Poland, and Bulgaria in 1949, from Czechoslovakia in 1950, and from Hungary in 1953.
Grappling with the trauma of the aftermath of the Holocaust and the unprecedented needs in Israel, JDC is extensively involved with supporting every facet of immigration to the new state, from financing dramatic rescue operations to operating programs that facilitate immigrant integration into Israeli society. Amid these dramatic developments for world Jewry, JDC continues to assist Jewish communities in Muslim countries and to help with reconstruction in European Jewish communities.
Organizes day care in Iran
JDC opens a large network of kindergartens and underwrites educational and social development programs, particularly for children from needy families. JDC staff develop extensive training programs to prepare teachers in modern early childhood education methods. Equipment is sent to outfit the kindergartens.
Funds aliyah to Israel of Jews from Iraq
JDC finances Operation Ezra and Nehemiah, a series of airlifts from Baghdad in 1951-1952, during which most of the 2,800-year-old Iraqi Jewish community–some 130,000 people–are airlifted to Israel. The operation takes its name from the Biblical prophets who led the Jewish people from exile in Babylonia in return to Israel.
Provides comprehensive relief to Jewish children in Muslim countries
JDC assistance to 90,000 Jewish children throughout the Muslim world includes: its partnership with OSE, a French Jewish humanitarian organization, in supporting clinics and medical installations to combat tuberculosis, trachoma, and tinea; its establishment of milk depots; and its support of summer camps and educational programs.
JDC’s emigration services merge with two other agencies
JDC’s Emigration Department, United Service for New Americans (USNA) and the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society (HIAS) merge, thus coordinating and consolidating all of the emigration and resettlement services provided by Jewish voluntary organizations into one agency.
Begins receiving and dispensing Holocaust restitution funds
JDC receives the first of 11 annual payments totaling $77 million from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany. The funds, communal compensation from West Germany, are used for the relief and rehabilitation of Nazi victims, primarily in Europe, and for the reconstruction of European Jewish institutions.
Supports loan institutions on four continents
In 1955, there are 22 JDC-financed loan institutions operating in Europe, South America, Australia, and Israel. JDC collaborates with the Jewish Colonization Association (JCA) in operating the loan institutions which run outside of Europe. These loan institutions help Jewish refugees to reestablish themselves in their new countries of residence.
Closing of final DP camp, Foehrenwald, in Germany
In 1957, West Germany closes Foehrenwald, which is among the largest and most significant of the Jewish displaced persons (DP) camps established throughout Europe after World War II. Though Foehrenwald is taken over by the German administration on December 1, 1951, a JDC presence remains in the camp at least until 1954, and the organization continues to provide a comprehensive program of essential services to refugees.
Invited to Poland to care for Jews repatriated from Soviet Union
The Polish government invites JDC back into the country to care for Jews repatriated from the Soviet Union, but expels JDC again in 1967 after the Six-Day War.
Founds School of Social Work at Hebrew University
The Paul Baerwald School of Social Work, named after a JDC founder and long-time chairman, is established at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Its mission is to advance Israel’s social welfare system by educating professionals and developing appropriate policies and social welfare systems to support Israel’s diverse population at all levels.
JDC’s partnership with the Israeli government to develop strategic interventions in social service programs for a broad spectrum of populations continues to expand, enabling Israel to meet the needs of its diverse communities. JDC in Europe helps communities to welcome Jewish refugees from North Africa and Poland and to develop social services to assist in their absorption.
Establishes Jewish School of Athens
The Jewish School of Athens is founded in 1960 with JDC financial support. It includes a nursery and a six-form primary school. During its first year, the school has 190 pupils.
Assists Algerian Jewish refugees fleeing to France
When Algeria becomes an independent country in June 1962, almost the entire Jewish community, which had been harassed by the Algerian Nationalist Party, Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), seeks refuge in France. JDC assists the French government and French Jewish welfare agencies in aiding the massive influx of approximately 360,000 Algerian Jewish refugees.
Begins work in India
JDC begins operations in India, focusing on social assistance for indigent Jews and feeding programs for Jewish schools.
Supports opening of Jewish Old Age Home in Casablanca
The Casablanca Jewish community opens an old age home which operates with funding from JDC and the Jewish community. This home is one of the social welfare institutions established with JDC assistance to serve needy Jews in the community. OSE, the primary health care provider in Morocco for needy and elderly Jews and a recipient of JDC funding, provides 24-hour medical supervision and nursing care as needed in the old age home.
Offers welfare assistance in Australia
JDC provides welfare grants to almost 2,800 individuals in Melbourne and Sydney.
Supports establishment of European Council of Jewish Communities
The European Council of Jewish Communities is established to coordinate among European Jewish communities and institutions, to strengthen ties with other world Jewish communities, and to create an active Jewish role in building a Europe based on democracy, diversity, tolerance, and a strong civil society.
Provides support to Polish immigrants in Scandinavian countries
Following rising anti-Semitism in Poland, large numbers of Polish Jews seek to emigrate. Thousands flee to Denmark and Sweden. JDC aids Jewish communities in both countries to facilitate the refugees’ integration into Jewish communal life. This funding includes medical care, welfare services, the establishment of clubs for young people and adults, lectures, seminars, a summer camp program, and the engagement of part-time social workers to visit areas with high concentrations of Polish immigrants. JDC aid continues through the mid-1980s.
Founds organization in partnership with Israeli government to plan services for aged
JDC and the Israeli government partner to launch ESHEL, the Association for the Planning and Development of Services for the Aged, which models projects and assists communities in organizing and financing their own programs for aging populations.
Partners with Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania (FEDROM)
In partnership with the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania (FEDROM), JDC provides financial and professional support for a network of Jewish institutional and social welfare services in Romania. An extensive social welfare system is established to assist elderly Holocaust survivors. This care includes cash assistance, medical care, home care, food, and support for old age homes.
JDC provides relief in Vienna and Rome for Soviet Jews in transit and is able to respond compassionately to a backlog of thousands of Soviet Jewish émigrés awaiting visas. JDC changes its mode of operation in Israel, establishing JDC-Israel, and continues to work in partnership with the government to address social needs. JDC continues to respond to non-sectarian emergencies and is a founding member of the Interfaith Hunger Appeal.
Provides educational and welfare services for children in Morocco
JDC support in Morocco focuses on the education of over 10,000 children in the kindergartens and schools of the Alliance Israelite Universelle, Ozar Hatorah, Lubavitch, and ORT. These students and their families also benefit from JDC-funded feeding programs, cash relief, summer camps, and OSE medical facilities.
Funds social, educational, and medical programs in Iran
JDC funding enables 19,000 students to attend Jewish schools in the Alliance Israelite Universelle, Ozar Hatorah, and ORT systems. These schools and kindergartens are also serviced by JDC-funded feeding programs that support impoverished Jewish students. JDC care also includes day care, cash allowances to families, aid to university students, clothing distribution, a training school for nurses attached to the Jewish hospital, a youth center, a school health program, and a Jewish hospital in Tehran that assists 3,700 individuals each month. JDC operations end in 1979 with the Iranian Revolution and the overthrow of the Shah.
Pioneers relationship with Israel Association of Community Centers
JDC supports the creation of the Israel Association of Community Centers (IACC), whose mission is to establish and assist a network of community centers across Israel. The IACC offers professional training, planning, development, fundraising and places special emphasis on serving disadvantaged populations. The IACC ultimately establishes over 180 community centers (40 in the Israeli Arab sector) with 816 branches and more than 400 community schools. JDC’s commitment to professionalism in social services in Israel also leads it to found the Joseph J. Schwartz Program at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1971 to train management personnel for the community center movement.
Creates institute for applied social research in Israel
JDC partners with the Israeli government to establish the Brookdale Institute, which focuses on addressing the challenges of an aging society, with a focus on the development of community services to allow the disabled elderly to remain in their homes, the employment of older workers, the establishment of an adequate pension system, and the promotion of healthier and more active lifestyles. Eventually, the scope of the Institute’s mission extends to supporting applied social research in additional social welfare fields such as health, immigration, and education. The Institute also develops a number of cooperative projects with Jewish organizations and American Jewish federations.
Supports Jewish education system and integration of North African refugees in France
JDC provides financial support to major Jewish educational systems in France, especially in response to the influx of North African refugees from Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. In partnership with the Fonds Social Juif Unifié, a French Jewish social welfare organization, JDC also funds seminaries, ORT vocational programs, academic scholarships and financial aid, university student groups and community youth centers.
JDC-Israel is established in Jerusalem. The following month, Jerusalem names the site of its headquarters Givat Joint, “Joint Hill.”
Creates Interfaith Hunger Appeal
Established by JDC with Catholic Relief Services and Church World Service, the Interfaith Hunger Appeal is a unique attempt to focus American attention on the pressing issue of world hunger and to involve the general public in the life-sustaining work of these three agencies.
Assists Cambodian refugees fleeing to Thailand
To assist Cambodian refugees fleeing to Thailand to escape the Khmer Rouge regime, JDC establishes its first Open Mailbox, a mechanism which allows the American Jewish philanthropic community to direct non-sectarian aid to countries affected by natural and man-made catastrophes. Later, in 1986, JDC’s non-sectarian International Development Program builds schools and helps organize a school system for Cambodian refugees living on the Thai-Cambodian border.
Assists record numbers of Soviet Jewish transmigrants
1979 marks a zenith in Soviet Jewish emigration from Russia, with 51,663 refugees applying to emigrate. Since Soviet Jews can not initiate immigration applications from within the FSU, they travel to U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) processing centers in Vienna and Rome and wait while their applications are processed. As the processing period is quite lengthy, tens of thousands of Soviet Jews are essentially stranded in transit while waiting to emigrate. For more than two decades, beginning in the 1970s, JDC provides care and maintenance, basic and emergency medical services, financial support, social services, educational, cultural, and religious programs, and housing assistance to Soviet Jewish transmigrants.
Permitted to re-enter East European countries to respond to the needs of Holocaust survivors and other vulnerable populations, JDC partners with local Jewish communities to strengthen communal infrastructure and to help the needy. JDC’s long history of providing non-sectarian aid culminates in the formal establishment of its International Development Program in 1986.
Returns to Hungary
JDC reenters Hungary, providing services to 80-100,000 Jews, in the largest remaining community in Eastern Europe outside of the USSR.
First European Union of Jewish Students summer university in England
The European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS) provides a support network for Jewish students through the development and maintenance of local and regional student unions, organizes educational seminars and conferences on Jewish topics, and facilitates collaboration between East and West European Jewish students. JDC provides technical assistance and funding.
Resumes operations in Czechoslovakia
JDC returns to Czechoslovakia at the invitation of the 12,000-member Czech and Slovak Jewish community. It provides relief to Holocaust survivors, maintains kosher kitchens in Prague, Kosice and Bratislava, and purchases medical and religious supplies abroad.
Returns to Poland after absence of 14 years
JDC resumes operations in Poland after an absence of 14 years. In its first year of operations, JDC helps establish a Coordinating Committee for Jewish Welfare, which subsequently provides cash relief, medical and religious supplies, cultural programs, kosher kitchens, and infrastructure support to over 5,000 Jews (roughly 90% of the community). JDC collaborates with Jewish relief organizations in Europe and Great Britain and non-Jewish organizations in Holland and Norway to provide emergency food packages.
Creates Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel
Established by Jewish philanthropists and JDC, the Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel is an independent socioeconomic think tank which analyzes and develops macro-level policy alternatives and functions as the public policy research arm of JDC in Israel.
Launches social welfare programs for needy Jews in Egypt
Social welfare programs are formally inaugurated to assist needy Jews in Cairo and Alexandria. Authorization is achieved after a three-year negotiation following the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace agreement. Later, JDC sends kosher food for Passover to this ancient Jewish community.
Creates medical and relief programs in Ethiopia
In the early 1980s, following the Ethiopian government’s closure of the ORT program which JDC had helped fund, JDC engages in lengthy negotiations to re-create a lifeline to Ethiopian Jewry. In 1983, as the country suffers from famine, JDC is granted permission to operate in the Gondar region where a large Jewish population resides, but on the condition that its relief and medical programs be nonsectarian. The projects JDC subsequently undertakes include emergency famine relief, electrification, agricultural recovery, clean water, well drilling, and brick making—efforts which earn JDC the trust of the government’s health and welfare sectors. In 1987 and 1988, JDC is the only NGO to receive funding from the United States Government to work there.
Funds comprehensive study of Jewish education infrastructure in France
To aid the French community in planning to meet its educational needs, JDC and the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) jointly fund a comprehensive research study. An inventory of all formal and informal Jewish educational opportunities in France, with the involvement of representatives of French Jewish educational bodies, is completed in 1988.
JDC formally establishes non-sectarian aid as part of its organizational mission.
Though not formalized as part of its global mission until 1986, JDC demonstrates the long tradition of Jewish humanitarian assistance to Jews and non-Jews in its worldwide relief and rehabilitation efforts throughout its history. In 1979, JDC establishes its first Open Mailbox to allow the Jewish philanthropic community to direct non-sectarian aid to Cambodian refugees fleeing to Thailand. Subsequently, similar mechanisms are set up to assist victims of man-made and natural disasters such as earthquakes, famine, extreme poverty, political instability, and war across the world, including Italy, Mexico, Chile, Ethiopia, and El Salvador. In 1986, JDC establishes non-sectarian aid as a formal part of its mandate by formally establishing the JDC–International Development Program (JDC-IDP). These relief efforts focus on addressing victims’ emergency needs and then providing longer-term rehabilitation and development assistance and empowerment of local partners. Since its inception, JDC-IDP has implemented its non-sectarian efforts in more than 60 countries, including Kosovo, Rwanda, and South Asia.
JDC establishes Jewish Service Corps (JSC)
JDC launches the Jewish Service Corps (JSC), a worldwide initiative to place Jewish professionals and college graduates in year-long service opportunities relating to the global communities served by JDC. JSC volunteers commit to generating innovative programs and responses to pressing Jewish and humanitarian challenges around the world within a framework of Jewish values.
Implements training and development program for Jewish community leaders in Latin America
JDC develops Leatid (which means “For the future” in Hebrew), the Latin America Training and Research Center for the Development of Jewish Communal Leadership. Leatid serves as a catalyst for the development, education, and counseling of Jewish lay and professional leadership. Its core programs include training for institutional directors and for young communal leaders as well as the Electronic Forum for Jewish Institutional Leadership. Leatid also conducts programs specifically for Jewish community leaders in Central America.
JDC is invited back to Soviet Union
For the first time since the liquidation of its Agro-Joint project in 1938, JDC returns to the Soviet Union. After meetings with the Chairman of the Soviet Council of Church Affairs and with synagogue leadership of various communities, including Moscow and Leningrad, JDC resumes operations in the Soviet Union. One of the priorities which JDC assumes in its lifeline role in this region is the rehabilitation and revitalization of Jewish communal infrastructures and the empowerment of Soviet Jewry. To this end, it supports the training of educators, religious leaders, and communal professionals; builds Judaic libraries and imports Russian-language Jewish books and materials; and creates facilities for and implements an astonishing range of cultural and religious activities, such as organizing Jewish cantorial concerts for sellout crowds in major cities, across the region.
Arranges airlift of victims of Armenia earthquake for rehabilitation in Israel
In response to a devastating earthquake in Armenia in 1988, JDC finances and arranges an El Al airlift of more than 60 victims of the earthquake, most of them amputees, from Yerevan, Soviet Armenia, to Israel. There, the trauma victims undergo rehabilitation and are fitted for prosthetic limbs. Seven weeks later, the earthquake victims are flown back to Armenia, with most able to disembark with little to no assistance. This humanitarian airlift marks the first occasion that an Israeli airline had landed in the Soviet Union since Moscow severed ties with Israel after the 1967 Six-Day War.
The fall of Communism and the dissolution of the former Soviet Union galvanize JDC in efforts to rebuild and reinvigorate Jewish communities throughout the region, and to assist Soviet Jewry in rediscovering their Jewish heritage. JDC responds to emergency situations in the Balkans and helps to rescue Jews from Ethiopia and elsewhere. JDC works extensively in Vienna and Rome to support a comprehensive relief program for Soviet Jewish émigrés in transit awaiting visas for Western countries.
Partners with Ronald S. Lauder Foundation to found International Summer Camp in Hungary
The International Summer Camp in Szarvas, Hungary, a unique Jewish educational summer camp under the auspices of the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation and JDC, garners a worldwide reputation for the legendary “Szarvas experience.” Szarvas, which serves over 2,000 Jewish campers from over 25 countries each summer, enhances and nurtures the Jewish identity and education of an entire generation of post-Communist Eastern European youth. Moreover, JDC’s international community development team runs year-round training seminars for madrichim (youth leaders) and other segments of the Hungarian community at Szarvas.
Supports La Benevolencija in Sarajevo
La Benevolencija, a Jewish cultural and humanitarian society, is formed by members of the Sarajevo Jewish community who remain in the city while it is under siege by Serb forces and the Yugoslav People’s Army, from 1992-1996. During the first two years of the siege, the non-sectarian society, staffed by Jewish, Croatian, Serbian, and Muslim volunteers, opens three free pharmacies and a first-aid clinic, prepares meals, starts its own post office and radio connection, and provides free apartments to Bosnian refugees. La Benevolencija receives financial support from JDC and raises additional funds from JDC’s Open Mailbox for Yugoslavia, relief organizations, and governments around the world to send over 1,500 tons of clothing, food, and medicine into Bosnia and Belgrade. JDC also provides assistance to transmigrants. JDC’s emergency aid to the former Yugoslavia during its civil war gives way to its efforts to assist in the long process of reconstruction and rehabilitation.
Provides funds for airlift of Ethiopian Jews to Israel
Between 1981 and 1989, JDC maintains a lifeline to the Ethiopian Jews in the north of Ethiopia. After the Israeli Embassy reopens in 1990, thousands of Jews hoping to go to Israel pour into Addis Ababa. JDC immediately opens humanitarian and medical services to help them. With civil war worsening, Israel carries out an airlift, termed “Operation Solomon,” of over 14,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel, which is completed in 36 hours, with 34 Israeli aircraft involved in non-stop flights. JDC plays a major role in preparing and organizing the airlift. Subsequently, JDC facilitates the emigration of some 6,000 additional Jews from Ethiopia’s isolated Quara region and organizes programs to boost the health and well-being of the Felas Mora, Ethiopians of Jewish ancestry, who are living in poverty in Addis Ababa and Gondar City, awaiting Israeli government processing of their requests to settle in Israel.
Develops eye treatment clinic in Zimbabwe
In partnership with Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, other governmental and local bodies, and international foundations, JDC establishes a two-year comprehensive eye care project to provide treatment and education in the Mashonaland Central Province. In addition to providing local medical personnel with training in the latest opthamological techniques, the project includes a full-service eye clinic at Bindura Provincial Hospital; a mobile unit to provide outpatient and minor surgical care in outlying areas; training and prevention programs for village health workers; and a glasses production unit.
Receives $10 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant for non-sectarian food assistance in former Soviet Union
JDC is one of the first non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to apply to participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s $165 million initiative to provide food aid to the former Soviet Union. JDC receives $10 million to distribute food aid and technical assistance in Moscow and St. Petersburg, the areas deemed by the U.S.D.A. to be in greatest need. JDC is the first NGO to establish a distribution system and ship food packages and institutional supplies to the former Soviet Union under the terms of the U.S.D.A. program.
JDC continues its multifaceted support for the massive waves of Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union.
JDC’s response to the fluid transmigrant situation dramatically evolves to support the soaring numbers of Soviet Jews—over 100,000—who are in transit at emigration processing centers in Rome and Vienna. In addition to these basic care and maintenance services, which include housing assistance, medical care, social services, food and allowances, and housing assistance in Ostia and Ladispoli, JDC offers transmigrants an array of educational, religious and cultural programs, designed both to raise awareness of Jewish and Israeli history and culture and to facilitate acculturation into new societies.
Returns to Cuba
A change in Cuban law offering Cubans protection against religious discrimination enables JDC to reenter Cuba in 1992, where it provides food packages and religious supplies to the community, as well as opening a free community pharmacy that dispenses affordable medications on a non-sectarian basis.
Arranges evacuation convoys after war breaks out in Bosnia and Herzegovina
After the outbreak of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina in April 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina secede from Yugoslavia. The Sarajevo Jewish community appeals to JDC to organize an immediate evacuation. With the assistance of Bosnian and Herzegovinian Jewish leaders, JDC begins a series of 11 convoys, evacuating over 2,100 Muslims, Christians, and Jews from Sarajevo to Belgrade, Serbia, Split, Croatia, and other locations.
Creates European Center for Jewish Leadership initiative
Leatid Europe—The European Center for Jewish Leadership (ECJL) leadership development initiative is created in partnership with the European Council of Jewish Communities, local European Jewish communities, World Jewish Relief (UK), and France’s Fonds Social Juif Unifié (also established with support from JDC). It offers Jewish leaders from Europe and the former Soviet Union opportunities to hone their management and strategic skills and to expand their Jewish knowledge.
Establishes first Jewish community-based welfare center in former Soviet Union
After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 and the subsequent deterioration of its economy, JDC initiates a massive relief program to assist a population overwhelmingly affected by these developments: needy Jewish elderly living on a fixed income. Hesed Avraham, JDC’s first community-based welfare center in the former Soviet Union, opens in 1993. It recruits 900 volunteers and offers a wide range of social services and Jewish renewal programs for the elderly, including a pensioners’ club, programs for the hearing and visually impaired, regular visits by trained personnel to homebound Jewish elderly, and an emergency telephone hotline. Subsequently, JDC establishes Hesed facilities in cities such as Kiev, Odessa, Minsk, and Moscow over the next two years. The organization continues to offer guidance and expertise in rebuilding needed services and infrastructure and reconnecting Soviet Jews to their Jewish heritage.
Sustains exodus of Syrian Jewish community
In October of 1994, Syria’s Chief Rabbi Avraham Hamra arrives in Israel, thereby concluding a secret exodus which began in December 1947 and brought over 3,800 Syrian Jews to Israel. After providing two initial grants in 1948, JDC begins a program of monthly assistance to the Syrian Jewish community. By the time this assistance program ends in 1994, JDC has allocated over $10 million for its rescue. In the accompanying image, Ralph Goldman, Honorary Executive Vice President of JDC, greets Rabbi Abraham Hamra, Chief Rabbi of the Syrian Jewish Community.
Opens Balint JCC in Budapest
A resource center and a Jewish “home,” the Balint Jewish Community Center (JCC) serves as a community hub for Jewish activities, enabling all sectors of the community to discover and express their Jewish identity. The Balint JCC also emphasizes cooperation and partnerships with civil society groups and individuals within the Jewish community. It provides 39 weekly social and vocational programs which attract more than 3,450 participants each month.
Renovates Jewish Home for the Aged in Tunis
The renovated Jewish Home for the Aged in the Tunis suburb of La Goulette is dedicated. JDC provides on-going financial and professional assistance and supports a major renovation to this vital institution. The Jewish Home cares for needy elderly Jews and community members who need short-term emergency or post-hospital care.
Founds early education and childhood development initiative for Ethiopian-Israeli children
In partnership with Jewish Federations in the U.S., JDC founds PACT (Parents and Children Together), an initiative designed to address Ethiopian-Israeli preschoolers’ educational and developmental needs. PACT is a pioneer among efforts aimed at closing social gaps and enabling Ethiopian-Israelis to improve their academic success by addressing the unique cultural and language barriers they face. PACT’s accomplishments spur the development of PACT Plus and Birth-to-Bagrut, which extend the program’s benefits to older children.
Creates Ashalim partnership with Israeli government and UJA- Federation of NY
An innovative partnership among JDC, the Israeli government, and UJA-Federation of New York leads to the establishment of ASHALIM, an organization dedicated to the development and implementation of services for children- and youth-at-risk in Israel. Its model combines a host of preventative and therapeutic programs under one roof, which emphasize cooperation with families and communities. Some of ASHALIM’s services include working with expectant parents, pioneering comprehensive community services to prevent and detect abuse, helping residents of battered women’s shelters strengthen their parenting skills, creating a network of supervised visitation centers for children of divorced parents, and supporting alternative residential and regional emergency facilities.
First Jewish Community Center (JCC) of post-Communist era established in Bulgaria
Beit Ha’am is the first Jewish Community Center (JCC) to be established in Sofia, Bulgaria, in the post-Communist era with JDC support. It becomes the setting for an ever-expanding range of programs instituted by Shalom, the Organization of Bulgarian Jews, such as classes, youth groups, summer camps, a kosher kitchen and social service activities for pensioners.
Provides relief to Venezuelan flood victims
JDC partners with Mercy Corps International and La Hebraica, an agency of the Venezuelan Jewish Community, to strengthen the disaster relief expertise of local NGOs and to help those displaced by the flooding to find jobs in their new areas of residence.
Dedication of Jewish Community Center in Bombay
JDC establishes a Jewish Community Center in Bombay. The center includes a Jewish library, youth leadership programs, a golden age club, a Hebrew School for young children, and informal Jewish education programs.
Renders humanitarian aid in Kosovo
After the war in Kosovo, JDC begins to implement an array of humanitarian programs throughout Kosovo. It partners with local builders to repair damage to schools. Subsequently, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) asks JDC to undertake reconstruction of all educational institutions in Pristina, where the Jewish population resides. Eventually, JDC repairs and renovates 40 public schools in Kosovo. In addition, it outfits computer labs and sets up free English and computer classes, taught by local teachers and organized in cooperation with ORT and local bodies. In partnership with the Catholic Church and Kosovo’s Islamic community, JDC helps in the restoration of the Shiponje mosque. The rededication of the mosque took place on September 7, 2001, an event attended by many Kosovo dignitaries, including Amb. John Menzies, the former head of the U.S. Office in Kosovo. JDC also provides support to the Multiethnic Children and Youth Peace Center (MCYPC) in Mitrovica, a northern town divided by a river into Serbian and Albanian sections. The MCYPC runs a day-care program for children of all ethnicities (including other Kosovar minorities such as Bosnians and Roma), publishes a youth magazine, and produces a radio program, written by Serbian and Albanian children under the tutelage of trained journalists.
JDC assists the Argentine Jewish community devastated by the economic collapse and quickly develops a comprehensive emergency program. JDC Open Mailboxes fuel a massive relief response to the 2004 South Asia tsunami and other natural disasters. With the formation of the European Community, JDC works to connect Jewish communities across Europe and globally.
JDC-funded renovation of Patronato Synagogue in Havana concludes
The renovation of the Patronato Synagogue in Havana, established in 1953, is completed with JDC assistance. In the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse, the Communist Congress of Cuba announces in 1992 that Cubans can be religiously involved and still remain members in good standing of the Communist party. Dr. Jose Miller, then head of the Cuban Jewish community, reaches out to JDC to enrich the Passover packages that were being allowed into Cuba as religious relief. Subsequently, JDC begins sending in shipments of pharmaceuticals. Eventually, a free pharmacy opens in the Patronato, where medicines are dispensed at no cost to the community.
Develops emergency relief program for Jews affected by massive financial crisis in Argentina
JDC assists the Argentinean Jewish community in response to the economic meltdown of 2001 by developing a massive emergency relief effort in partnership with local organizations. These relief efforts include job training, cash relief, school lunches, scholarships, and baby care. JDC also facilitates the merger and revamping of communal institutions to enable them to survive the financial crisis. At its heights, JDC’s relief efforts assist about 36,000 people.
Appointed by U.S. Federal court to administer welfare services to Nazi victims in former Soviet Union
The U.S. Federal Court of the Eastern District allocates $138 million over a ten-year period (2001-2011), as part of the Swiss Banks Settlement, for Holocaust survivors now living in the former Soviet Union—”double victims” of both Nazism and Communism. In 2001, the Court appoints JDC as the agency responsible for administering welfare services to these victims in the former Soviet Union via its network of Hesed welfare centers.
Supports Nikitskaya Jewish Community Center in Moscow
JDC establishes and funds a major community center on Nikitskaya Street in Moscow as part of its Capital Cities Initiative. The Nikitskaya Center offers the Moscow Jewish community a diverse slate of top-quality cultural, educational and religious programming for adults and children.
Offers emergency response to bombings in Istanbul
In November 2003, two synagogues in Istanbul, the British Consulate, and the headquarters of the British-owned bank, HBSC, are the target of terrorist attacks. Many of the victims are security guards, Muslims and Jews, who are on duty at the time of the bombings. JDC’s Open Mailbox in response to these attacks collects more than $1 million, and the relief initiatives funded by these donations include: physical rehabilitation for injured children, trauma therapy for victims, emergency medical equipment kits for ambulances and local institutions, financial assistance to families, and the training of Israeli trauma relief experts to work side-by-side with local professionals.
Coordinates relief and development response to South Asian tsunami
In response to the December 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, JDC raises over $19 million for tsunami relief. Through partnerships with local and international NGOs, JDC’s International Development Program (JDC-IDP) implements emergency relief and longer-term rehabilitation projects in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. These efforts include providing emergency assistance for internally displaced persons; donating emergency supplies and two ambulances; upgrades to relief and refuge facilities; assisting children through the construction of playgrounds and primary schools; and offering psychosocial support services. A cornerstone of JDC-IDP’s efforts in working toward economic rehabilitation is the creation of model villages and community centers in local towns. Subsequently, JDC-IDP trains a network of disaster-relief professionals from India, Sri, Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, and the Maldives, to develop new relationships and programming to assist those affected by the tsunami.
Founds TEVET initiative in partnership with Israeli government
JDC forges its TEVET (Fighting Poverty Through Employment) Partnership with the Israeli government. TEVET is a comprehensive employment initiative which seeks to fight poverty and promote employment among the estimated half-million Israelis who are not in the workforce. It focuses on overcoming the social, cultural, and educational obstacles affecting long-term jobless and hard-to-absorb populations.
Subsidizes renovation of Djerba Yeshiva
The centuries-old Djerba Yeshiva is one of the major Jewish institutions on this Tunisian island. JDC helps to support educational programs for some 167 boys. With generous donor support, JDC subsidizes a major renovation effort in 2007, which adds four new classrooms, a dining hall, and various other facilities.
IFCJ-JDC Partnership for Jewish Children in the Former Soviet Union founded
Under the leadership of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews establishes the IFCJ-JDC Partnership for Jewish Children in the Former Soviet Union (FSU), expanding and formalizing its support for Jewish youngsters in this region who are in need and at risk.
Bambinim Center for Jewish émigrés opens in Berlin
JDC launches the Bambinim program, which offers Jewish educational initiatives and family-oriented programs, including an early childhood program, for Soviet Jewish immigrants to Germany. Subsequently, the Bambinim program is extended to Duisburg, and parallel meetings and activities are developed for parents to help them develop a Jewish identity. This is part of JDC’s efforts to connect Jewish émigrés from the former Soviet Union with Jewish life and activities.
First “Judafest” Street Festival Event held in Budapest
The first “JUDAFEST” Jewish Street Festival in Budapest, sponsored by JDC, draws over 3,500 people. The largest event in Hungarian Jewish life, “Judafest” offers an astonishing variety of Jewish-themed events, products and activities, from klezmer concerts to Judaica art to quizzes on Jewish history.
Opens Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village with partners in Rwanda
The Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village opens in Rwanda. Built by JDC-IDP (International Development Program) in partnership with a family foundation and a major corporation, it is modeled on the Yemen Orde youth village in Israel. A special project, the Agohazo-Shalom Youth Village, built together with U.S., Israeli, and Rwandan experts, provides a haven for children orphaned by the 1994 Rwandan genocide. In addition to offering a safe space for children to deal with their emotional trauma, the village offers an on-site high school for residents and a medical clinic, which also serves the surrounding community.
Opens Ariel Job Centers in Estonia and Latvia
Based on a program pioneered by JDC in Argentina, Ariel Job Centers are launched in Estonia and Latvia. These Centers provide training on job searches, workshops on interviewing skills, assistance with resumes building, and computer skills.