Finding aid prepared by Rose Klepfisz and revised by Marilyn Henry with the assistance of a grant from Marshall Weinberg in Marilyn’s honor.
Archives of The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Inc.
||American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
||Records of the New York Office of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, 1914 – 1918
||January 1, 1914 – December 31, 1918
||American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, New York Archives
Scope and Content of Records
This collection comprises 155 numbered files from the New York Headquarters records of JDC. The material includes chronologies of events, correspondence, cables, reports, minutes and transcripts of meetings and conferences that document the origins, beginning in 1914, of systematic financial aid from American Jewish organizations to imperiled Jews abroad.
In August of that year, Henry Morgenthau Sr., then U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, cabled New York philanthropist Jacob Schiff seeking emergency aid for the Jews of Palestine. Subsequently, three relief committees—the American Jewish Relief Committee, the Central Relief Committee, and the People’s Relief Committee—formed the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, popularly known as the “Joint,” to distribute the funds they raised for needy Jews in Eastern Europe and Palestine.
The records in this collection depict the accelerated expansion of JDC activities; fund-raising and annual campaign drives; and ongoing efforts to overcome political obstacles and military restrictions that restricted the dispatch of field workers abroad. Also documented is the developing cooperation with governments, foreign Jewish organizations, and nonsectarian voluntary agencies so essential for JDC’s work; it enabled JDC to transmit emergency relief funds and individual remittances, and to provide food, clothing, and shelter to endangered Jews in a nonpartisan, nonpolitical manner.
Of note in this collection are records of prominent American Jewish leaders and philanthropists, such as Jacob Schiff, Felix Warburg, Louis Marshall, Cyrus Adler, Julius Rosenwald, and Judah Magnes, Genealogists and family researchers may find relevant correspondence, lists, and receipts for transmission of remittances to individuals.
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Copyright held by The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Inc. Other intellectual property rights may apply. The publication of JDC records in any format requires the written permission of the JDC Archives. Users must apply in writing for permission to reproduce or publish manuscript materials found in this collection.Please see our Access and Restrictions Policy
for further details.
Repository, Title of Collection, Folder number, Title of item, Date of item
Example: JDC Archives, Records of the New York Office of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, 1914 – 1918, Folder #143.3, Cablegram from Albert Lucas to Ambassador Francis, 08/07/1917.
The records are arranged into the following categories:
This subcollection focuses on the composition, structure, leadership, and operations of JDC and JDC committees and is divided into the following two record groups:
New York Administration:
Materials document expanding JDC committee development, assignments, commitments to undertake relief activities and raise funds for impoverished Jews in various locations abroad.
Materials document operations abroad, disruptions caused by war, transmission and use of funds to acquire relief supplies, and relations with overseas organizations, including local Jewish “help committees,” through whom JDC channeled funds. In this period, JDC did not maintain its own apparatus in Europe in the form of offices or permanent representatives.
This subcollection deals with JDC’s relationship and cooperation with the United States Government, its departments, agencies, and consular officials; with foreign governments and their embassies and consuls; and with JDC constituent member organizations and other private Jewish and nonsectarian humanitarian organizations and agencies to aid in the transfer and distribution of relief funds.
This subcollection treats the functional activities of JDC in this period and documents efforts to provide care and critical relief for the displaced and the vulnerable; to support children and orphans, rabbis, and prisoners of war; to distribute supplies and kosher provisions, and to respond to personal appeals for aid in locating and assisting family members. Subject matter is divided into the following six record groups:
The documents in this subcollection detail JDC’s efforts to alleviate suffering and rebuild devastated communities; they are organized in record groups that are arranged alphabetically by country or region. When the amount of material for each country or region warrants further classification, the record group may be broken down into series. Note that borders shift in the war era, and that the names of localities reflect both recognized political and indigenous Jewish regions.
The geographical classification of the materials presented numerous challenges. Between 1914 and 1918, national borders shifted because of the collapse of empires and military operations and occupations. Some communities or areas changed regimes repeatedly during the war era. Vilna, for example, originally under Russian rule, was seized by Germany and included in the new district of Ober Ost, and was later claimed by Poland and Lithuania. Many locations were known by multiple names. Every effort has been made to cross-reference communities and to provide traditional and popular geographic names; these may not correspond to the current names and national borders.
Arrangement and collection-level description of the 1914–1918 Collection was originally produced by Rose Klepfisz in 1964. Marilyn Henry updated the finding aid in 2010 using current descriptive standards and practices, but did not renumber files or modify arrangement.