JDC Archives Virtual Programs: Fall 2023

Please join us at our upcoming virtual programs!

The JDC Archives is offering an array of online public programs in the coming months. These events are listed below; please register for each one individually by clicking on its RSVP link. Recordings of past programs are available via our Public Programs Recordings page.


Rethinking Ashkenazi History in the Modern Middle East: Early 20th-Century Egypt and Palestine
Thursday, September 7, 2023
12:00pm–1:15pm (Eastern)

Modern Jewish Ashkenazi migration to the Middle East is typically viewed through the lens of Zionism as an ideological migration that led to the establishment of Israel. It is widely assumed that Ashkenazi migrants did not integrate into Middle Eastern society, political structures and culture in any meaningful way. Was this indeed the case? This lecture will challenge the assumption of the intrinsic Ashkenazi “separateness” and discuss the ways in which Ashkenazim negotiated their place within the late Ottoman Middle East, focusing on Palestine and Egypt. The plight of (primarily Ashkenazi) Jews in Palestine was one of the key catalysts for the establishment of JDC in 1914. The lecture will draw on the JDC Archives and other sources to provide information on the condition of Ashkenazi Jews in Palestine as well as in Egypt during wartime.

Yair Wallach is a Reader (Associate Professor) in Israeli Studies and the head of the Centre for Jewish Studies, at SOAS, the University of London. He has written primarily on urban and material culture in modern Palestine/Israel. His book, A City in Fragments: Urban Text in Modern Jerusalem, which was published by Stanford University Press in 2020, examined Hebrew and Arabic texts in the urban landscape of Jerusalem of the late Ottoman and British Mandate. The book, which won the 2022 Jordan Schnitzer prize, studied the changing meaning of reading, writing and textuality through street signs, graffiti, shop signs, and stone inscriptions. His current work focuses on questions of migration and race, particularly the integration and acculturation of Ashkenazim in Arab society and culture in the Eastern Mediterranean. Yair Wallach is the recipient of the 2022 Ruth and David Musher/JDC Archives Fellowship.



“Relief Supplies – Films”: On the Road with the JDC’s Mobile Film Units in Postwar Germany
Monday, October 16, 2023
12:00pm-1:15pm (Eastern)

In the wake of the Holocaust, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) initiated and coordinated an ambitious multi-year film screening program for Jewish Displaced Persons (DPs) in postwar Germany. This “mobile cinematheque” revived Jewish DPs after years of Nazi persecution and incarceration. These wildly popular screenings across the US Zone of occupied Germany not only fueled cinematic escapism and survivors’ creative ambitions but also transformed Jewish DPs into borderless cultural citizens, eager to consume Yiddish classics and the latest in global and Hollywood cinema in equal measure, however serious, triggering, or innocuous the content.

Yet, behind the scenes and screens, the JDC’s relief program was constantly beset with obstructions and challenges that undermined its leaders’ aspirations to deliver films locally (in Germany), and its visionary ambition to become the principal film-as-relief supplier to other zones and war-torn European countries. What were the ambitions, challenges, and geography of this extensive humanitarian relief program for Jewish DPs in postwar Germany? This talk draws principally on the archives of the JDC to reconstruct and visualize the provision, scale, and succor of film screenings in, and to, a displaced society.

Simone Gigliotti is Reader in Holocaust Studies in the Department of History at Royal Holloway, University of London, UK. She has published books, edited collections, and articles on various aspects of the Holocaust and its displacement histories, including deportations, death marches, Jewish refugee experiences, and reportage/recollection/retellings in testimony. The topic of the JDC’s film relief program is treated extensively in her recent book and digital project, Restless Archive: The Holocaust and the Cinema of the Displaced (Indiana University Press, 2023).


The JDC Archives is excited to announce a new webinar series, The Latin American and Caribbean Jewish Experience in the Twentieth Century.

The first program in the series will be:

“Bound for Nowhere”: How the JDC Became Involved in Rescue to the British Caribbean during the Nazi Period

During the 1930s and the Second World War, the Caribbean became increasingly important as a refuge for those fleeing persecution from antisemitism in Eastern Europe and from the Nazi regime. From seeming an unlikely destination for refugees, as conditions worsened for Jewish populations across Europe, any places in the British Empire that did not require visas took on far more significance to refugees, refugee agencies and to the Nazi regime and Western governments. This talk is about the role of the JDC and other agencies that became essential in negotiating exits and entries, supporting refugee populations, and making the case for humanitarian actions. The dilemmas facing these organizations is starkly illustrated in their role in helping refugees to, in and from the British Caribbean. The JDC’s description of boats “bound for nowhere,” and “floating no man’s lands,” is emblematic of the dilemmas they faced then, and that refugee agencies continue to face today.

Dr. Joanna Newman is currently Secretary General of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU)—the world’s oldest international network of universities, dedicated to building a better world through higher education. Her previous roles include the Vice-Principal (International) at King’s College London, where she remains a Senior Research Fellow in History. From September 2023, she will become Provost at SOAS, University of London. Dr. Newman is the author of In Nearly the New World: The British West Indies and the Flight from Nazism, 1933-1945 (Berghahn Books 2019), a book that tells the extraordinary story of Jewish refugees who overcame persecution and sought safety in the West Indies from the 1930s through the end of the war.