JDC Presents Archival Documents to President Rivlin to Mark Israel’s 70th Anniversary

April 18, 2018

On the occasion of Israel’s 70th birthday, JDC Board members gathered at the official residence of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem and presented him with two framed documents highlighting his family’s connection to the JDC. The first of these is a 1920 letter sent by his cousin’s father, Rabbi Moshe Rivlin, Secretary of the Central Committee Knesset Israel, an institution which provided assistance to the destitute Jews of Palestine. The situation of the Jewish population was particularly difficult in the aftermath of World War I. Families, expelled by the Turkish authorities during the conflict, were coming back to the Yishuv in desperate condition while rising inflation worsened living standards. On the eve of the Passover holidays, Rabbi Rivlin requested that the Joint send him matzah for the needy.

As the second document shows, the Joint was quick to heed Rivlin’s plea and agreed to send Rivlin’s Committee not only matzah but also financial aid.

During that period, the Joint was providing crucial assistance to the Jewish population of Palestine working hand in hand with local committees such as the Central Committee Knesset Israel. It funded a soup kitchen, ran by Yosef Navon, the father of Israel’s fifth President, Yitzhak Navon. The JDC also provided a wide array of medical and sanitary services. Poor drainage and a lack of water contributed to the spread of disease. Typhoid, typhus, meningitis, malaria, and eye conditions like trachoma were common. JDC subsidized the American Zionist Medical Unit and other medical and sanitary programs to alleviate these problems among all the population.

President Rivlin, clearly very moved, acknowledged JDC’s longstanding work in Israel and declared: “This year Israel is marking 70 years of independence, but the [JDC] has been standing behind Israel for even longer. For more than 100 years, since World War I, you have been a safety net for our people.”