JDC Archives Virtual Programs: Winter–Spring 2022

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.

Second program in the JDC Archives Series on Jewish Women in Turbulent Times: Changes, Challenges & Opportunities
“Send a Woman For It”: American Jewish Women Serving the JDC Abroad During the Interwar Years
Thursday, January 27, 2022
12:00pm–2:00pm (EST)

While the “JDC man” became a well-known figure in the international Jewish communal world following World War I, it was not only men who served as JDC administrators, investigators, social workers, and other professionals. A cadre of American Jewish women also spent significant time traveling and living abroad while working for the JDC. Some of them filled roles then seen as uniquely suited to women, such as nursing, while others performed the same type of work as men but brought a gendered perspective to it that shaped their successes, failures, and acceptance by the Jewish communities abroad where they represented the JDC. This talk will explore the role American Jewish women played abroad during the first decades of the JDC’s development into an international humanitarian organization.

Dr. Melissa R. Klapper is Professor of History and Director of Women’s & Gender Studies at Rowan University. She is the author of Jewish Girls Coming of Age in America, 1860-1920 (NYU, 2005); Small Strangers: The Experiences of Immigrant Children in the United States, 1880-1925 (Ivan R. Dee, 2007); and Ballots, Babies, and Banners of Peace: American Jewish Women’s Activism, 1890-1940 (NYU, 2013), which won the National Jewish Book Award in Women’s Studies. Her most recent book is Ballet Class: An American History (Oxford, 2020). She is a recipient of the 2021 Fred and Ellen Lewis/JDC Archives Fellowship.


Third program in the JDC Archives Series on Jewish Women in Turbulent Times: Changes, Challenges & Opportunities
The Fight Against Epidemics in Interwar Poland and the Warsaw Ghetto: Finding Sara-Zofia Syrkin-Binsztejnowa
Wednesday, February 16, 2022
12:00pm–1:30pm (EST)

A woman medical doctor, Sara-Zofia Syrkin-Binsztejnowa, played a central role in fighting epidemics both in post-World War I Galicia and later in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. She was also pivotal in launching the national Jewish public health system TOZ (Jewish Health Protection Society) in Poland. Research in the digitized archives of the Joint Distribution Committee allowed for the restoration of the lost biography of this key figure in the history of emergency medical relief and public health from both interwar Poland and during the Holocaust. Through uncovering this woman’s history, we are invited to consider the important linkages between the two eras and Syrkin-Binsztejnowa’s relentless commitment to public health. Her story illuminates the intersecting histories of public health, refugeedom and the Holocaust, and assumes haunting relevance at the time of the current pandemic and the humanitarian crisis on Europe’s borders.

Juliet D. Golden is the Director of the Syracuse University Abroad Central Europe Program. She received a Political Science from Indiana University, an M.A. in International Relations from Columbia University, and a PhD in International Education from the University of Lower Silesia. Her research and teaching center on the politics of memory, the history of women and public health in interwar Poland and the Holocaust, and architecture and public space in Central Europe. Her article, “‘Show that you are really alive’: Sara-Zofia Syrkin-Binsztejnowa’s Emergency Medical Relief and Public Health Work in Early Interwar Poland and the Warsaw Ghetto,” published in Medizinhistorisches Journal (Medicine and the Life Sciences in History), is based on research in the JDC Archives.

This event is cosponsored by the Center for Medicine, Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.


The Fifth Helen Cohen Memorial Lecture
Book Talk
A “Jewish Marshall Plan”: The American Jewish Presence in Post-Holocaust France
Wednesday, March 30, 2022
12:00pm–1:30pm (EDT)

While the role the United States played in France’s liberation from Nazi Germany is widely celebrated, it is less well known that American Jewish individuals and organizations mobilized to reconstruct Jewish life in France after the Holocaust. In this lecture, Dr. Laura Hobson Faure will present her first book, now in English, A “Jewish Marshall Plan”: The American Jewish Presence in Post-Holocaust France, which will appear February 2022 in the Modern Jewish Experience collection by Indiana University Press. In her talk, Dr. Hobson Faure will explore how American Jews committed themselves and hundreds of millions of dollars to bring much needed aid to French Jews in the aftermath of the Holocaust. She will shed light on the important role played by American Jewish chaplains, members of the Armed Forces, and those involved with Jewish philanthropic organizations, especially the American Joint Distribution Committee. American Jews and their organizations sought out Jewish survivors in France and became deeply entangled with the communities they helped to rebuild.

Laura Hobson Faure is a professor at the Panthéon-Sorbonne University-Paris 1, where she holds the chair of modern Jewish history and is a member of the Center for Social History (UMR 8058). She is co-editor of L’Œuvre de Secours aux Enfants et les populations juives au XXème siècle. Prévenir et Guérir dans un siècle de violences (Armand Colin, 2014) and Enfants « sans famille » dans les guerres du XXème siècle (Éditions CNRS, forthcoming). Originally from Michigan, she studied at Bryn Mawr College and obtained a PhD in History from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris and an Habilitation à diriger les recherches from Sciences Po-Paris.

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


Special Yom Hashoah Lecture
Re-evaluating the Role of American Jewry during the Shoah
Tuesday, April 26, 2022
12:00pm–1:30pm (EDT)

Holocaust scholarship has generally been critical of the role of American Jewry during the Shoah. American Jews, many believe, could have done much more than they did to save the Jews of Europe.

The JDC stands as the great exception to “knew nothing, did nothing” generalizations. Scholarship shows that it quietly “saved hundreds of thousands of lives in its tireless efforts to rescue Jews from Europe.” A growing body of literature shows that the JDC did not work alone. Others too worked clandestinely and behind the scenes. Recent scholarship shows that Jews across the United States secretly spied on the German Bund during the 1930s and worked to undermine its pro-Nazi activities. Much has recently appeared concerning individuals and groups, working under the radar, who rescued rabbis, scholars, labor leaders, children, and other Jews, obtaining precious immigration certificates to bring them into the country and settle them without drawing public attention. A Jewish sponsored news service, known as the Overseas News Agency uncovered and disseminated news of the persecution and murder of Jews, that would never have appeared in the general press had their “Jewish origin” been exposed. And books on the Jewish Labor Committee and the World Jewish Congress detail how hard they secretly worked to save Europe’s Jews.

This scholarship, which will be discussed in this lecture, points to the need for a full-scale reevaluation of American Jewry’s role in saving Jews and fighting Nazism during the Holocaust years.

Dr. Jonathan Sarna is University Professor and the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History as well as the Director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University. He is also past president of the Association for Jewish Studies and Chief Historian of The Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia. Jonathan Sarna is a JDC Board member and serves on JDC’s Archives Committee.

Dr. Sarna is the author or editor of more than 30 books on American Jewish history and life. His American Judaism: A History (Yale, 2004), recently published in a second edition, won the 2004 “Everett Jewish Book of the Year Award” from the Jewish Book Council. His most recent books are Coming to Terms with America (JPS, 2021) and (with Benjamin Shapell) Lincoln and the Jews: A History (St. Martin’s, 2015).

This program is co-sponsored by The Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History, the only museum in the nation dedicated to exploring and interpreting 360+ years of Jewish life in America. Through educational programs and experiences, the Museum seeks to connect Jews more closely to their heritage and to inspire in people of all backgrounds a greater appreciation for the diversity of the American experience and the freedoms to which all Americans aspire.