Jonathan Sarna Lectures on the Transformation of JDC into a Permanent Organization

In this lecture, Dr. Jonathan Sarna, University Professor and the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University, discussed how the founders of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, in World War I, assumed that the organization they were creating would be temporary. Indeed, on multiple occasions the JDC announced that it expected to dissolve. In February 1923, almost exactly a century ago, it produced a draft “liquidation report” that “confidently expected” a final staff reduction to “three or four employees” by the end of the year. Of course, that never happened. Instead, the JDC responded to new conditions and transformed its mission from wartime relief to sustained support of suffering Jews abroad. To the dismay of some funders, but to the lasting benefit of world Jewry, JDC reorganized and became a permanent organization.

Dr. Sarna is a JDC Board member and serves on JDC’s Archives Committee.