Finding Aid
Descriptive Summary
Title: Records of the New York Office of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, 1919-1921
Creator: American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
Inclusive Dates: July 1, 1919 – October 31, 1921
Extent: 30 linear feet
Link: The New York 1919-1921 Collection
Location: American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, New York Archives
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 text records; approximately 100,000 photo images; and over 3,600 film, video, and audio items.

Scope and Content of Records

The collection comprises 290 numbered files from the New York Headquarters records of JDC, supplemented by reports by the following JDC personnel: James N. Rosenberg, Dr. Cyrus Adler, Dr. Boris D. Bogen, Mrs. Harriet B. Lowenstein Goldstein, Joseph Marcus, Alexander A. Landesco, Dr. Israel Friedlander, and Rabbi Bernard Cantor; and by the records of JDC’s European Headquarters; the records of the JDC Landsmanschaften Department; and the records of Prisoners of War in Siberia aided by JDC.

The material consists primarily of correspondence, cables, minutes, and transcripts of JDC meetings and conferences, reports, and interviews of JDC representatives and others pertaining to JDC’s relief activities and its organization. The collection contains documentation on prevailing conditions across the globe, including news dispatches and articles, field reports, eyewitness accounts, diaries and memoirs, and some lists of victims. There are records of the transmission overseas of individual remittances, the collection of funds in the United States, and the distribution of funds and supplies abroad.

The collection vividly depicts the chaotic postwar political, economic, and social conditions in Eastern Europe, Palestine, and other areas; the plight of uprooted Jewish refugees and war orphans and the stranded Jewish prisoners of war in Siberia; and the proliferation of anti-Semitic attacks and ghastly pogroms, particularly in the Ukraine. At the same time, it describes the major role that JDC played in bringing the suffering of Jews overseas to the attention of the public and the outpouring of support that followed; and it details JDC’s cooperation with government offices and agencies, and with humanitarian nonsectarian and Jewish organizations, as it responded to the misery and dislocation of this turbulent time.

This period—January 1, 1919 through July 1, 1921—saw the establishment of JDC’s overseas organization, and several units of relief workers were sent abroad. Substantial materials document the work of Dr. Israel Friedlaender and Rabbi Bernard Cantor, who were murdered while on a mission for JDC.

After July 1, 1921, emergency relief activity was largely discontinued, except in Russia, and JDC activities and programs focused on rehabilitation and reconstruction. A new operational system was developed, and five functional departments were organized to target different areas of need: medico-sanitary improvements, childcare, economic reconstruction, refugee care, and cultural and religious institutions.


The main categories of arrangement are:

Subject Matter
Countries and Regions

Copyright Conditions

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. For more information contact: [email protected]

Preferred Citation

Repository, Title of Collection, Folder number, Title of item, Date of item,, item [ITEM ID number].

Example: JDC Archives, New York Office Collection 1919 – 1921, Folder 72.3, “Memorandum of Conversation with Dr. Keppel American Red Cross, Washington,” March 4, 1920,, item 209762.

Processing Information

Arrangement and collection-level description of the 1919-1921 Collection was originally produced by Eleanor Mlotek in 1969. Marilyn Henry updated the finding aid in 2009 using current descriptive standards and practices, but did not renumber files or modify arrangement.

Finding aid prepared by Eleanor Mlotek and revised by Marilyn Henry with the assistance of a grant from Marshall M. Weinberg in her honor.

In 2014, this collection was re-microfilmed for preservation purposes with a grant from the New York State Program for the Conservation and Preservation of Library Research Materials.

Digitization of this collection was made possible with funding from the Polonsky Foundation.

Archives of The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Inc.

Email: [email protected]