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JDC Jerusalem Office Records, 1944-1952

The cataloging, microfilming, and digitization of this collection was made possible with support from the Colman Family Foundation, Memorial de la Shoah (Paris), and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Descriptive Summary

  • Creator:American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
  • Title:Records of the Jerusalem Office of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
  • Inclusive Dates:1944 - 1952
  • Location:American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Jerusalem Archives
  • Link:The Jerusalem 1944-1952 Collection
  • Languages:The majority of this collection is in English.
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Alternative Form of Materials

This collection have been digitized and are searchable online through the textual collections portal of the JDC Archives database.

Please also see the curated Collection Highlight of images of Yemenite Jews and Operation Magic Carpet.

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Administrative History

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) is the world's leading humanitarian assistance organization. Formed in 1914 in response to the onset of World War I and the devastation it wreaked on thousands of Jewish communities across war-torn Europe, JDC has served over the past century as the overseas arm of the American Jewish philanthropic community, providing rescue, relief, and rehabilitation services to global Jewish communities and individuals in need worldwide.

In the present day, JDC continues its efforts to alleviate hunger and material hardship, rebuild and sustain Jewish cultural and social service infrastructures and communal institutions worldwide, aid at-risk Jewish communities and individuals, and provide critical relief and long-term non-sectarian development assistance services for victims of man-made and natural disasters in more than 90 countries across the globe.

The JDC Archives holds, describes, preserves, and makes accessible the organization's institutional records. These records include: approximately 3 miles of textual records; a photo collection of approximately 100,000 images; over 1,300 films; and a collection of over 1,000 sound recordings, which document JDC's history and its global activities.

Most of our collections take their name from the JDC office (e.g. Geneva, Jerusalem, New York) where the records were created.

Records received or created by JDC’s New York office, the organization’s global headquarters since its founding in 1914, generally reflect high-level policy, governance, and programmatic information, as well as reports to headquarters from JDC’s overseas staff and operations.

JDC’s Geneva office served as JDC’s overseas headquarters from 1958-1977. It was the repository for reports, memos, and other first-hand correspondence from JDC staff “in the field,” working with local communities in over 70 countries. When the Geneva office closed in 1977, its records were transferred to the JDC Archives in Jerusalem.

Additional collections take their names from JDC’s local offices where the records were created: these holdings include the Cyprus, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Stockholm, and Warsaw Collections. Other collections describe the work of distinct initiatives or programs, such as DORSA, the Dominican Republic Settlement Association, established during World War II.

Please see the Scope and Content note for detailed information about the Jerusalem office.

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Scope and Content of Records

The records describe JDC’s partnerships with Jewish communities worldwide, such as those in Australia and South Africa, to send essential supplies to recipients in Palestine, later Israel, and to detainees in the British internment camps on Cyprus. The Jerusalem office also organized shipments of food packages to European survivors, especially to the Soviet Far East, through Teheran and Istanbul. JDC’s Jerusalem office had nearly 70 staff dedicated to assisting people in searching for their relatives in the aftermath of the Holocaust, and to compiling and publishing survivors’ names.

The most dramatic operation recounted in this collection is Operation Magic Carpet, described in great detail in the Aden subcollection. Termed “the largest human airlift in history,” Operation Magic Carpet brought nearly 50,000 Jews from Yemen, Aden, Djibouti, and Asmara, Eritrea to Israel on a series of airlifts between December 1948 and September 1950. The Aden subcollection contains a trove of unique material on this historic chapter, including 28 folders of detailed English-language flight passenger lists.

This collection also reflects the effect of political exigencies even on JDC’s physical office: due to security considerations, the Jerusalem office operated under heavy guard and was later forced to move, first within Jerusalem and eventually from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv for the period March 1948-January 1950.

These records reflect the impact of JDC’s extensive partnership with the new Israeli government to establish MALBEN, a social service organization to address the needs of thousands of immigrants to the new State, including those of particularly vulnerable populations such as the handicapped and elderly. A year later, JDC assumed complete responsibility for operating MALBEN and collaborating with the Israeli government to deliver comprehensive health and social welfare services. Significant records of MALBEN’s early years are found in this collection, in the Israel record group of the Countries and Regions subcollection.

These records also detail JDC’s assistance to yeshivot relocating from Europe to Israel and ongoing support and technical assistance to yeshivot across Israel.

Other highlights in the Jerusalem 1944-1952 Collection include:

  • lists of Jews found in Vilna, Rovno and Kiev, the first recipients of postwar supplies in early 1945;
  • a February 1946 letter from David Guzik, JDC’s representative in Poland who perished in a plane crash in March 1946, favoring repatriation for Polish Jews;
  • a letter of thanks to detainees on Cyprus who gave what they had to the War of Independence fundraising efforts;
  • concert programs from Cyprus camps, including that of Shoshana Damari;
  • correspondence with Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, later the second President of Israel;
  • reports, correspondence, and appeals for help from Jewish communities in Muslim countries, which shed light on conditions in remote areas;
  • map of damage incurred in riots in Aden following the UN partition vote;
  • responsa (replies to inquiries about Jewish law) written by Israel’s Chief Rabbis Herzog (Ashkenazi) and Uziel (Sephardi) on religious observance of Passover and Rosh Hashanah during Operation Magic Carpet airlift
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This collection is arranged in four subcollections:

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Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to researchers with the exception of files that are restricted due to the nature of their contents. Restricted files can include legal files, personnel files, case files, and personal medical diagnoses, etc. Please see our Access and Restrictions Policy for further details.

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Preferred Citation

Repository, Title of Collection, Folder number, Title of item, Date of item.

Example: JDC Archives, Records of the Jerusalem Office of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, 1944-1952, Folder 862, Israel: Soldiers' Rehabilitation 1949-1952

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Processing Information

The Jerusalem 1944-1952 Collection was processed by Ayala Levin-Kruss from 2014-2017.

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