JDC Archives Holds Volunteer Recognition Luncheon

Recognizing the hardworking JDC Archives volunteers

If you have ever searched the JDC Archives’ Names Index, there’s a good chance that you have made use of the painstaking work of the Archives’ volunteers. Seven volunteers give one day per week to the JDC Archives. Three of them began volunteering with us in 2010 and are active in the Jewish Genealogy Society and, have a great appreciation of the benefits of this project to those researching their family history. They have been joined by the other newcomers who have been volunteering for about three years. Their work entails entering data from JDC archival lists of names into our names database, making them searchable to the public via the Names Index. The source document is generally a JDC archival document with critical information, often lists of people helped by JDC. The volunteers index those names and other relevant data (origin, destination, family members, etc., with the kinds of information provided varying depending on the kind of list) to the Archives database. The work requires patience and attention to detail, but is ultimately rewarding as it provides a treasure trove of information for genealogists and the general public alike.

But why volunteer at the JDC Archives?

Volunteer Linda Feinstone says she’s been a longtime supporter of the JDC. When she sold her travel company and retired, she thought she’d enjoy having a stronger connection to the JDC by volunteering with the Archives. She likes working on the Names Index because “it’s work that needs to be done and it’s interesting to learn more about what JDC has done throughout the years.” Like Linda, Andy Breit enjoys volunteering in the Archives because he likes JDC and what it’s done and still does. Moreover, Andy also has a personal JDC connection, as JDC helped his parents during the war—“there’s a history there,” he said.

In honor of our volunteers’ hard work, the Archives hosted a volunteer appreciation luncheon on May 14, 2019. The lunch was also a celebration of the volunteers’ completion of the Yemen lists, which include passenger names from the Operation Magic Carpet airlift lists. This project entailed entering the names of 49,000 Yemenite Jews who were airlifted to Israel on flights of Alaska Airlines, which were leased by the Joint, from December 1948 until July 1950. The data on the passenger lists includes names arranged in family units, age, family status (married, widowed, unmarried, orphan, etc.), and even weight, which was important to know in order to fill the planes to maximum capacity.

Portion of a page of the Yemenite airlift passenger lists that were indexed by JDC Archives volunteers.

Records of the Jerusalem Office of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, 1944-1952.

The program started with a viewing of film footage taken by James Wooten, President of Alaska Airlines, who piloted many of the flights and made home movies of the experience. These two reels of home movies were recently donated to the JDC Archives and feature Yemenite Jews arriving in Aden on their way to the newly formed State of Israel and scenes from early days in Israel.

The luncheon was also the setting for the Archives’ recognition of one of its longest-serving volunteers, Claus Hirsch. Nearly 10 years ago, in January 2010, Claus began as a volunteer indexing lists that would create the database of searchable names. Claus was a young boy when his family escaped Germany for Shanghai, where they spent the duration of the war and where they received vital assistance from JDC. As a token of appreciation to Claus, the Archives presented him with a framed award including photos of Claus in Shanghai in the 1940s and at the JDC Archives in 2016 and the plaque that marks the site of the old JDC office in Shanghai.

Images in the plaque presented to volunteer Claus Hirsch in appreciation of reaching the milestones of 2,000 hours worked and 20,000 records created.

A hearty thank you to all of our hardworking volunteers!

    Barry Badner
    Andy Breit
    Linda Cantor
    Linda Feinstone
    Claus Hirsch
    Susan Lieberman
    Harriet Shapiro

If you’re interested in volunteering to work on our names indexing project, please contact us.