“A New Lens” on JDC’s Historic Films

Revamped website feature showcases JDC’s incredible historic films

The JDC Archives vividly documents the organization’s century-plus of global humanitarian aid through many different media: text, sound, object—and now film. Over the past few years, the JDC Archives have dedicated particular attention to digitizing JDC’s historic film collection, as resources allow. These preservation efforts ensure that compelling footage of milestones in world and Jewish history and of dispersed or vanished communities that JDC assisted in more than 90 countries truly comes alive to viewers and remains accessible for future use for filmmakers, journalists, genealogists, and the general public.

The Historic Film Collection page highlights several exciting resources, including:

  • a List of Digitized Films, organized chronologically, with helpful summaries of film contents
  • sample clips from digitized films that demonstrate the scope and diversity of JDC’s relief programs, such as Bound for Nowhere: The St. Louis Episode, about the tragic saga of over 900 passengers fleeing on the S.S. St. Louis from Nazi Germany to Cuba, where they were refused entry; footage of Yemenite Jews, crossing deserts, mountains and borders, often on foot, to emigrate to the newly formed State of Israel in Operation Magic Carpet, “the largest human airlift in history” [footage below]; rare scenes of Holocaust survivors from the Bergen Belsen DP camp departing Germany; and scenes of Algerian and other North African Jewish immigrants adjusting to life in France in the early 1960s, among other films
  • a list of JDC Archives Documentary Film Grant awardees. The JDC Archives recently awarded its second grant to The Lost Crown, a documentary about the Aleppo Codex.

Operation Magic Carpet: Yemenite Jews, having crossed deserts, mountains and borders, often on foot, arrive at Aden airport to be flown to the newly formed State of Israel.

Excerpt from A Day of Deliverance, 1949

To ensure that these rare primary sources are broadly accessible to students, JDC makes them available free of charge for classroom use.

These films not only bring to life the scope and diversity of JDC’s worldwide relief programs; they also offer stunning glimpses of the pressing needs of millions of people in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East over the past several decades and JDC’s humanitarian work. In many cases, these historic films testify to the history and nature of communities that, in some cases, no longer exist. Whether silent or with sound, black-and-white or color, these films add an extraordinary dimension to JDC’s documentary record and help the countless stories in its archives to come alive.