Finding Aid
Descriptive Summary
Title: Records of the New York Office of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
Creator: American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
Inclusive Dates: 1975 – 1989
Link: Records of the New York Office, 1975-1989
Location: American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
Languages: The majority of this collection is in English.
Administrative History

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) is the world’s leading Jewish 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 photo images; over 1,300 films; and a collection of over 1,000 sound recordings, which document JDC’s history and its global activities.

Custodial History

These records were transferred to the JDC Archives in Jerusalem when the Geneva Office closed in 1977.

Scope and Content of Records

This collection documents JDC’s global relief, renewal, and rescue initiatives in the years 1975-1989 in over 70 countries, including in Europe, Israel, Latin America, North Africa and elsewhere, and testifies to JDC’s policy and programmatic decisions. The records reflect the correspondence of staff at JDC’s global headquarters in New York with field offices around the world; domestic and international governmental, non-profit, and philanthropic agencies; and Jewish communities and individuals worldwide.

Many of JDC’s humanitarian enterprises reflect a broader organizational shift, including: an increased commitment to sustaining professional development and enhancing communal infrastructure in Jewish communities; the evolution of JDC’s operations in Israel, encompassing the formation of JDC-Israel in 1976 as an autonomous unit, and ongoing partnerships with the Israeli government and other agencies to enhance professionalism in Israel’s community health, education, and social welfare sectors. JDC’s emphasis on research, evaluation, and institutional planning resulted in the establishment of the Brookdale Institute of Gerontology and Adult Human Development in 1975, which later evolved into the current Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute.

The collection also documents JDC’s formalization of its long-time commitment to delivering non-sectarian aid as part of its global mission with the establishment of its International Development Program (IDP) in 1986. These relief efforts focus on immediately addressing the emergency needs of victims of catastrophic and destabilizing circumstances such as earthquakes, famine, extreme poverty, political instability, and then subsequently providing longer-term rehabilitation and development assistance and empowering local partners. The same decade also saw the launch in 1987 of the Jewish Service Corps (JSC), an initiative to place Jewish professionals and college graduates in year-long service opportunities with communities served by JDC.

Another milestone reflected in these primary resources is JDC’s negotiations to reenter Eastern Europe countries to respond to the needs of Holocaust survivors and other vulnerable populations. First in Hungary in 1980 and later in Czechoslovakia (1981) and in Poland (1981), JDC partnered with local Jewish communities to strengthen communal infrastructure. For more than two decades, beginning in the 1970s, JDC provided care and maintenance, basic and emergency medical services, financial support, social services, educational, cultural, and religious programs, and housing assistance to tens of thousands of Soviet Jewish émigrés waiting in transit in Rome and Vienna for their emigration applications to the United States, Canada, and other locations to be processed.

In the early 1980s, JDC also entered negotiations in Ethiopia to establish an aid lifeline to Ethiopian Jewry, and in 1983, was granted permission to operate in the Gondar region where a large Jewish population resides—but only on the condition that its relief programs be nonsectarian. In 1987 and 1988, JDC was the only NGO to receive funding from the U.S. Government to conduct relief work in Ethiopia.

Alternative Form of Materials

All four subcollections have been digitized and are available online through the JDC Archives database.

The entire collection has been microfilmed on 650 reels.


The New York 1975-1989 records are arranged into the following four subcollections:

Subject Matter
Countries and Regions | A-Ir
Countries and Regions | Is-Z

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.

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. Please see our Access and Restrictions Policy for further details.

For additional 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 1975-1989, Folder ET.40, “Ethiopia: Subject Matter: Agriculture and Development, 1985-1989,”, item 1077764.

Processing Information

This finding aid was produced by Rebecca Weintraub and Tamar Zeffren in 2020-2021.

Cataloguing and digitization of this collection was made possible by generous donations from: John Colman, Donald M. and Sylvia Robinson, Marshall M. Weinberg, and an anonymous donor.

Archives of The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Inc.

Email: [email protected]