JDC Archives to Co-Sponsor Workshop on Latin America and the Caribbean

Focus on Jewish immigration and local communities in the twentieth century

The JDC Archives, the Brandeis University Initiative on the Jews of the Americas, the Latin American Jewish Studies Association (LAJSA), and the Association for the Social Scientific Study of Jewry (ASSJ) are co-sponsoring a workshop at Brandeis University on May 7-8, 2024. This two-day workshop will bring together scholars working on “Jewish Immigrants, Local Communities, and International Jewish Organizations in Twentieth Century Latin America and the Caribbean: A Triangular Relationship.”

Jewish refugees and Cuban workers cutting diamonds in a factory. Havana, Cuba, ca. 1943. Photograph: Foto-Life.

From the early twentieth century to the 1970s, Latin American and Caribbean countries including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Venezuela have been final destinations and transit points for Sephardi, Mizrahi, and Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants and refugees from Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (also known as JDC or “the Joint”), alongside other international Jewish organizations, supported this Jewish immigration to the Americas and facilitated refugees’ integration. JDC is most widely known for its refugee assistance programs that were established together with local Jewish communities, yet ongoing relationships ensued.

The workshop will investigate the triangular relationship between Jewish immigrants, local Jewish communities, and international Jewish organizations in twentieth century Latin American and Caribbean countries. We invite proposals that explore the following questions:

  • What challenges did Jewish refugees face during their emigration process?
  • What roles did JDC and other organizations play in facilitating the immigration of Jewish refugees in the region?
  • What new organizations (national and international) were created to assist Jewish refugees? Did these organizations work in concert or in competition with the Joint?
  • How were these refugees welcomed and accepted by the existing Jewish and host communities and societies?
  • How were JDC and other Jewish organizations able to navigate the political turmoil and economic realities in the region in order to provide assistance to Jewish communities?
  • What personalities played major roles in facilitating the immigration of Jewish refugees to the region?
  • Did JDC’s work effect a measurable impact in US Jews’ attention to their brethren in the rest of the Americas?
  • What were the documented experiences and impact of JDC’s work in the Caribbean and Latin America on US Jewish leadership and communities?

This workshop is envisioned as a collaborative and dynamic meeting, designed for papers to be circulated in advance, with the aim of producing a dedicated issue in a scholarly journal in the field. To that end, we request individual proposals of 350 words or fewer, to be sent to [email protected] by October 1, 2023. Participants will be notified of acceptance by November 15, 2023, and we request completed papers, ready for circulation by April 15, 2024.

We welcome papers that tap into different fields of inquiry (i.e., history, anthropology, sociology, political science, etc.) and promote dialogue between different critical approaches, including comparative papers that bring a global (transnational or hemispheric) lens to the topic. Papers may be presented in English, Spanish, or Portuguese.

This will be the fifth workshop organized by the JDC Archives. The first workshop took place in 2014 to mark the 100th anniversary of JDC. In 2017, the JDC Archives held a workshop on “Refugees, Migrations and the Work of the Joint.” In 2019, the JDC Archives was invited to cosponsor a workshop on “The Activities of the Joint in Poland and Neighboring Countries 1945-1989: Reality and Perceptions.” This program was held at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw. In 2020, the JDC Archives and the Ben Zvi Institute held an online workshop titled, “The Work of the Joint Distribution Committee and Other International Jewish Organizations in Islamic Countries.”