Finding Aid
Descriptive Summary
Title: Oral History Collection of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
Creator: American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
Inclusive Dates: 1961 – present
Location: American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, New York Archives
Languages: This collection is primarily in English. It also features materials in French, Hebrew, Hungarian, Polish, Russian, and Yiddish.
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 nonsectarian 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 1,000 sound recordings.

Scope and Content of Records

JDC’ s Oral History Collection contains interviews conducted with JDC staff members and lay leaders from 1961 to the present. The collection contains audio and video recordings and transcripts of interviews. Organized into subcollections, the collection offers a rare glimpse into the activities and perceptions of caregivers, lay leaders, JDC staff, and policymakers who led JDC’s relief efforts from the World War II era into the 21st century. Interviewees served from the late 1930s to the early 2000s in JDC’ s New York headquarters and in overseas field offices.

The collection reflects the international scope of JDC’s work over more than a century. Interviews cover the breadth of JDC in all aspects of world Jewish history in the 20th century along with nonsectarian work throughout the world. Interviewees reflect on their work in Cuba, France, Germany, Ethiopia, Morocco, Portugal, Israel, and Switzerland, among other countries. Many interviews detail JDC’s work in Eastern Europe during and after the Cold War. Still others highlight field staff who served in Africa and the Middle East from the 1940s to the 2000s.

Additionally, prominent JDC executives and lay leaders were interviewed, including Samuel Haber, Director of the American Zone of Operation in Germany from 1947 to 1954 and later JDC’s Executive Vice-Chairman from 1967 to 1975; Joseph Schwartz, Director of European Operations from 1940 to 1949; and Edward M.M. Warburg, Chairman from 1945 to 1965.

The materials also include a small number of interviews with recipients of JDC aid, including individuals from Bosnia, Cuba, India, Iran, Libya, Turkey, and other countries. In addition, prominent Eastern Europeans who worked alongside JDC were interviewed, including Jozsef Schweitzer, Chief Rabbi of Hungary in the late 1980s; Ilona Seifert, a leader of the Hungarian Jewish community; and many other Jewish communal leaders with whom JDC partnered.

The collection contains hundreds of hours of audio and video recordings, as well as 10 boxes and digital files of transcripts, correspondence, reports, news clippings, notes, project proposals, and resumes. See individual scope and content notes for each subcollection for more details.

Some additional copies and notes were compiled by JDC staff and outside researchers from 2003 through 2010. These materials have been integrated into the collection where appropriate.

Note: The JDC Archives welcomes additional information about the interviewees featured in this collection. Please contact [email protected].


The Oral History Collection is arranged into eight subcollections. Each interviewee within a subcollection constitutes a record group. Record groups are arranged alphabetically by the interviewee’s last name:

Subcollection 1. Yehuda Bauer Interviews
Subcollection 2. United Jewish Appeal Oral History Project
Subcollection 3. Herbert Katzki Oral History Project
Subcollection 4. Ralph Goldman Research Interviews
Subcollection 5. American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee 90th Anniversary Interviews
Subcollection 6. Additional Interviews
Subcollection 7. Jacob H. Schiff Oral History Collection
Subcollection 8. 2021-2022 JDC Archives Oral History Project

Conditions Governing Access

Recordings and transcripts may be accessed by contacting the JDC Archives through this form.

Some records are restricted due to their confidential nature. Please see our Access and Restrictions Policyfor 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 materials found in this collection. Please see our Access and Restrictions Policy for further details.

For more information, contact: [email protected]

Preferred Citation

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

Example: JDC Archives, Oral History Collection, Herbert Katzki Oral History Project, Folder 71, Fishzohn, Arthur, 1981: Transcript.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Aaron Rosenblum and Julia Lipkins with assistance from Oxana Merkulina, Emily Nabasny, Shira Peltzman, and Elli Smerling from 2012-2014.

This finding aid was produced by Tamar Zeffren in 2015.

The cataloguing of this collection was made possible with grants from Mémorial de la Shoah and Donald M. and Sylvia Robinson. The 2021-2022 JDC Oral History Project (subcollection 8) was funded by a group of JDC board members.

Archives of The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Inc.

Email: [email protected]