JDC Archives Virtual Programs: Winter-Spring 2021

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 on the JDC Archives Youtube channel.

Virtual Film Screening:

Monday, February 22, 2021
7:00pm–8:30pm (EST)

Join the JDC Archives and JDC Entwine for the film screening of REFUSENIK.

REFUSENIK is the first retrospective documentary to chronicle the thirty-year movement to free Soviet Jews. It shows how a small grassroots effort bold enough to take on a Cold War superpower blossomed into an international human rights campaign that engaged the disempowered and world leaders alike. Told through the eyes of activists on both sides of the Iron Curtain—many of whom survived punishment in Soviet Gulag labor camps—the film is a tapestry of first-person accounts of heroism, sacrifice, and ultimately, liberation.

The campaign to free Soviet Jewry is a major event in Jewish history. By 1992, one and a half million Jews had left the Soviet Union to live in freedom as a direct result of what was likely the most successful human rights campaign of all times.

REFUSENIK illustrates how individuals can utilize the power inherent in a tolerant democracy and literally change the world. The tactics and methods developed by activists in this struggle became examples to the rest of the world, forever changing the human rights landscape.

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with filmmaker Laura Bialis.

Laura Bialis is an award-winning documentary filmmaker. Her film Rock in the Red Zone is a personal view from the ground in Sderot, Israel, and an exploration into the lives of musicians creating in a conflict zone. Other projects include View from the Bridge: Stories from Kosovo and Tak For Alt, the story of Holocaust survivor turned Civil Rights activist Judy Meisel, which was honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, broadcast on PBS, and has been used extensively in high schools across the United States for Holocaust education. Laura holds a B.A. in History from Stanford University, and an M.F.A. in Production from the USC School of Cinema Arts. She is currently working on a documentary about the life and work of photographer Roman Vishniac.

Registration information to follow


Treading Lightly Back into the USSR: The ‘Joint’ Returns after Half a Century
Wednesday, March 3, 2021
2:00pm–3:30pm (EST)

The Joint Distribution Committee enthusiastically promoted aid and re-training to the impoverished three million Jews of the USSR beginning in the 1920s. “Agro-Joint” was a major effort to transform shtetl dwellers into productive farmers in Yiddish speaking “colonies” in that country. By 1938, at the height of the “Great Purges,” the Joint was expelled from the Soviet Union. Half a century later, the JDC was challenged by the opportunity to re-engage openly with Soviet Jews, much changed by urbanization, industrialization, the Holocaust and the loss of their religious and secular cultures. This talk will consider the political and other calculations involved in the decision to re-enter the USSR and the enormous impact the Joint has had over the last three decades.

Zvi Gitelman is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Preston Tisch Professor Emeritus of Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan. He has written or edited nineteen books and many articles on Soviet, East European, and Israeli politics. They include Jewish Identities in Postcommunist Russia and Ukraine: An Uncertain Ethnicity (2012), and The New Jewish Diaspora: Russian-speaking Immigrants in Israel, the U.S. and Germany (2016). Gitelman’s current research is on Soviet Jews in combat in World War Two, and on the politics of history in former socialist states.

Registration information to follow


Impossible Reconstructions: Families after the Holocaust
Thursday, March 18, 2021
12:00pm–1:30pm (EST)

At the end of the Second World War, child survivors of the Holocaust, living in orphanages and children’s colonies across Europe, began to hunt for surviving parents and other relatives. At the same time, parents and other relatives began to search for these lost children. This is well known—but what is less well known is what happened when surviving family members found each other. Surviving parents in many cases did not feel they could provide stable homes for their surviving children, and a considerable number of “Jewish war orphans” living in children’s colonies after the war actually had at least one surviving parent. For other families, life together again proved impossible to maintain, and families reunited only to break apart after a period of months or years. This talk will draw on documents from the JDC archives and oral history with child survivors to explore not only why family reunification proved so difficult in the immediate postwar period, but also how children subjectively experienced such events.

Rebecca Clifford is Associate Professor of Modern History at Swansea University. Her most recent book, Survivors: Children’s Lives After the Holocaust (Yale, 2020) has been nominated for Britain’s top book awards, is on the long list for the Wingate Literary Prize, and was a Telegraph Book of the Year 2020.



The JDC Archives and the Jewish Book Council invite you to the third Helen Cohen Memorial Lecture:
The Jewish Heroes of Warsaw: The Afterlife of the Revolt
Thursday, April 8, 2021
12:00pm–1:30pm (EST)

In this lecture, Dr. Avinoam Patt will present on his newest book, The Jewish Heroes of Warsaw: The Afterlife of the Revolt. The expected publication date by Wayne State University Press is April 2021. Dr. Patt will examine how the heroic saga of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was mythologized in a way that captured the attention of Jews around the world, allowing them to imagine what it might have been like to be there, engaged in the struggle against the Nazi oppressor. Soon after the uprising in April 1943, the transition to memorialization and mourning of those lost in the Holocaust solidified the event as a date to remember both the heroes and the martyrs of Warsaw and of European Jewry more broadly. David Guzik, one of the JDC Directors in Warsaw, helped secure loans for the underground in the Warsaw Ghetto and contributed to documentation efforts after the revolt. JDC assisted the community after the war and played a role in early memorialization efforts.

Avinoam J. Patt (PhD) is the Doris and Simon Konover Chair of Judaic Studies and Director of the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life at the University of Connecticut. He is the author of Finding Home and Homeland: Jewish Youth and Zionism in the Aftermath of the Holocaust (2009); co-editor (with Michael Berkowitz) of a collected volume on Jewish Displaced Persons titled We are Here: New Approaches to the Study of Jewish Displaced Persons in Postwar Germany (2010). He is co-editor of The JDC at 100: A Century of Humanitarianism (Wayne State University Press, 2019). Together with David Slucki and Gabriel Finder, he is co-editor of the new volume Laughter After: Humor and the Holocaust (2020) and, with Laura Hilton, is co-editor of Understanding and Teaching the Holocaust (2020).

The event is co-sponsored by The Jewish Book Council

The Jewish Book Council is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating and enriching the community through Jewish literature, strengthening connections to Jewish life and identity, and inspiring conversations between generations of readers. Learn more about its programs and resources here.

This public lecture has been endowed by Jerry and Linda Spitzer in memory of his beloved aunt, Helen Cohen.



“Please give me back my nightstand lamp”: The JOINT’s Activity in Szeged in the Aftermath of the Holocaust
Wednesday, April 28, 2021
12:00pm–1:30pm (EST)

The Jewish community of Szeged, Hungary, has a rich cultural and historical heritage hearkening back two centuries. Like most Jewish cities in Europe, Szeged saw most of its Jewish population perish in the Holocaust. Nevertheless, and most probably uniquely in Hungary, the community’s archive and objects from the synagogue primarily stayed intact. Most Holocaust survivors who had been deported from Szeged returned to their hometown. At liberation, Jewish camp survivors received help from the shattered Jewish community and mostly survived on care packages from JDC. Once the survivors returned to Szeged in May 1945, they turned to the Jewish community for help. This lecture probes the nature of the requests that survivors made for assistance, based on archival material of the Szeged Jewish Archives and the JDC Archives.

Dr. Dóra Pataricza has Jewish roots in Szeged. She is a postdoctoral researcher in History working as a research fellow at Åbo Akademi University, Finland, on the project “Boundaries of Jewish Identities in Contemporary Finland.” Since January 2020, she has directed a project at the Szeged Jewish Community, funded by the Claims Conference, to reconstruct the fate of Hungarian and Bačka-Serbian victims of the Holocaust. She is the recipient of the 2020 Ruth and David Musher/JDC Archives Fellowship. Her research in the JDC Archives deals with the fate and everyday life of Jewish survivors of Szeged, Hungary, in the aftermath of the Holocaust.