This page includes Subcollection 8, the 2021-2022 JDC Archives Oral History Project. Subcollections 1-3, the Yehuda Bauer Interviews, United Jewish Appeal Oral History Project, and Herbert Katzki Oral History Project, are available here. Subcollections 4-7, the Ralph Goldman Research Interviews, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee 90th Anniversary Interviews, and Additional Interviews, are available here.
This subcollection contains 18 interview transcripts and digital videos recorded for the 2021-2022 JDC Archives Oral History Project. The project intended to document and preserve the stories of former JDC senior staff members with rich histories of service from the 1970s until the early 2010s.
Recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic, the interviews were done over the Zoom platform between summer 2021 and spring 2022. Current and former staff who knew the interviewees’ JDC service well served as interviewers to facilitate conversation. Interviews ranged from one to four 2-hour sessions per person. Interviews were recorded in English except that of Yitzchak Averbuch, which was conducted in Hebrew.
Topics discussed include: the airlift of thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel; the war in former Yugoslavia; renewal of Jewish life in the post-communist world; establishment of the Israeli Ashalim youth program and Eshel program for the elderly; creation of the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute for Research; school programs in Morocco and Tunisia; creation of the Hesed Program to support elderly Jews in the Former Soviet Union; the International Development Program offering non-sectarian assistance during disasters or crises.
Arranged alphabetically by interviewee, each interview has a transcript as well as a digital video recording (or recordings). When more than one interview session was recorded, more than one video exists, but there is only one transcript per interviewee given that transcripts from multiple recordings have been combined. Researcher copies may exist for transcripts and/or recordings.
Access to these oral history videos and transcripts is available upon request by researchers.
Record Group 1: Yitzchak Averbuch Oral History Interview
Date(s): September 2, 2021
Scope and Content Note: Oral history interview of Yitzchak Averbuch conducted by Sara Bogen in Hebrew over Zoom on September 2, 2021. The interview covers the two decades Averbuch worked for the JDC in the Former Soviet Union (FSU). The time period covered is the 1990s to the early 2010s. The interview covers Averbuch’s work in the FSU region including the following subjects: Michael Schneider, Stanley Abramovitch, Yeshayahu Dan, Asher Ostrin, and the Jewish Agency. Transcript and Zoom video recording are available to access the oral history.
Biographical Note: Yitzchak Averbuch was born in 1948 in Odessa, Ukraine, and made Aliyah to Israel in 1971. Originally trained as an architect and construction engineer, Averbuch joined JDC in 1991 as Chief Logistics Officer for JDC’s FSU (Former Soviet Union) operations in Moscow. In 1994, Averbuch became Country Director for Central Russia and the Volga region. In 1998, he was named Country Director for Eastern and Northern Ukraine. Additionally, from 2002 through 2008, Averbuch served as Country Director for Central, Western and Southern Ukraine and was Deputy Director of Field Operations in the FSU from 2008 to 2014. He retired in 2014.
Record Group 2: Amos Avgar Oral History Interview
Date(s): October 10, 2021
Scope and Content Note: Oral history interview of Amos Avgar conducted by Amir Shaviv in person at the JDC New York Headquarters in October 2021. The interview covers the three decades Avgar worked for the JDC in the Former Soviet Union (FSU). The time period covered is the 1980s to the early 2000s. The general topics of discussion were community development planning in Israel in the 1980s, supporting the Russian and Iranian olim in Israel, the development of JDC information management systems, and the creation of the Hesed program in the former Soviet Union. Subjects covered are Ralph Goldman, Michael Schneider, Leonid Kolton, Paulina Mendelivich, Israel Sabag, Ami Bergman; TKA YATED/Thousand Family Association, U.S. Refugees Program (USRP), Hesed, Israel, the Former Soviet Union, Iraq, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan; Project Renewal, Russian Aliyah/Transmigrant Program, Warm Home Program, the International Development Program, non-sectarian work, Soviet Olim, Or Akiva, the Food Package Distribution Program, Yiddishkeit, Kurdish refugees, the Sri Lanka Tsunami, and the Knowledge Exchange Network (KEN). Transcript and Zoom video recording are available to access the oral history.
Biographical Note: Amos Avgar was born in 1946 in Jerusalem. Graduating from Leyada High School in 1964 in Jerusalem, Avgar studied in both Vienna and Jerusalem. Serving as an officer in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) for three years, he fought in the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War, and the Lebanese War. In 1968, he studied Nepali Culture and History at Tribhuvan University in Katmandu and received his B.A. and M.A. degrees in Philosophy, Psychology, and Sociology in 1973 from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Subsequently, he received his Ph.D. in Planning from Cornell University. His thesis was titled, “Post Disaster Development, Implications for Public Policy”.
Prior to joining JDC, he served as Director of Planning for Project Renewal in the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem from 1978 to 1981. In 1981, Avgar joined the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee as Director of Budget, Planning, Development, and Evaluation. From 1984 to 1991, he served in New York as the Israel Desk officer and Director of Management Information Systems. Returning to JDC-Israel in 1988, he assumed the roles of Director of Budget and Finance and Management Information Systems until 1991 when he was transferred to the Russian Department. Avgar was the country director for St. Petersburg, Belorussia, and Kiev as well as Director of Welfare for the Former Soviet Union. Around the same time, he was appointed the Director of Welfare for JDC.
In 2003, Avgar was appointed Chief Planning Officer for the New York Headquarters as well as Regional Director for Africa and Asia and Eastern Europe. In 2006, he returned to Israel to serve as Executive Director of the International Development Program (IDP), retiring in 2010. After retirement, Avgar joined Tag International Development as its Chief Operating Officer. He is currently a consultant to Israeli NGOs in post-disaster planning and social entrepreneurship.
Record Group 3: Yechiel Bar-Chaim Oral History Interview
Date(s): June 8, 9, 10 and July 8, 2021
Scope and Content Note: Oral history interviews of Yechiel Bar-Chaim conducted by Zvi Feine over Zoom in June and July of 2021. The interviews cover Bar-Chaim’s work with the JDC over more than two decades in the Balkans region, particularly the former Yugoslavia. The time period covered is the 1990s and 2000s. The interviews were conducted over four sessions. Transcript and Zoom video recordings are available to access the oral history.
NOTE: The oral history was conducted over four separate sessions on Zoom. Therefore, there are four separate Zoom videos. However, the transcript has been combined into a single PDF for ease of access. The footer on each page of the transcript indicates which recording the text of that page is from.
Session 1 (June 8, 2021) covered: Alfred Bader, Isabel Bader, Amos Avgar, Michael Schneider, Alberto Senderey, Asher Ostrin, Arnon Mantver, Stanley Abramovitch, Diane Rosenbaum, Rachel Chanin, JDC-Israel, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), JDC-Tevet, International Development Program (IDP), Israel, Vienna, Bulgaria, Paris, Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Transmigrant Program, and the end of the Cold War.
Session 2 (June 9, 2021) covered: Dezidir Galski, Felix Kolmer, Martin Smok, Charles Jordan, Eliezer Papo, Shauli Dritter, Michael Cohen, Ghetto Museum Terezin, Dezidir Galski Institute, La Benevolencja, Chabad, Czech Republic, Czechoslovakia, Serbia, Yugoslavia, Prague, Belgrade, Sarajevo, Bosnia, Croatia, Velvet Revolution, death of Charles Jordan, Communist Regime in Czech Republic, and Roma.
Session 3 (June 10, 2021) covered: Zejneba Hardaga, Leinka Bilalagic, Eli Eliezri, Paul Polansky, World Jewish Relief, La Benevolencja, Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, International Rescue Committee (IRC), World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO), Kosovo-Israeli Friendship Association, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia, Yugoslavia, Belgrade, Subotica, Slovenia, Albania, Yugoslav War (Bosnian War), Roma, Evacuations, Non-Sectarian Work, Roma Refugees, Albanian Refugees, Slovenian Haggadah.
Session 4 (July 8, 2021) covered: Evelyn Peters, Albert Chiche, Pinson Family, Roger Bismuth, Gerard Berrebi, David Kidouchim, Youssef Uzan, Simon Saghroun, Kanfei Yonah, Tunisia, La Goulette Old Age Home, Djerba, Zarzis, Hara Kabira, Hara Seghira, Old Age Homes, Yeshiva, Medical Supplies, Non-Sectarian Work.
Biographical Note: Yechiel Bar-Chaim was born in 1945 in the United States. He received his B.A. from Harvard University, followed by studies at the Sorbonne and a M.A. degree in Economics with Honors from Hebrew University. Bar-Chaim served in the United States Army rising to the rank of Captain in the Signal Corps. He also served as the volunteer head and prayer leader of the small, mult-national, Jewish community at SHAPE, the military headquarters of NATO located near Mons, Belgium.
Bar-Chaim started at JDC-Israel in 1985 as a budget analyst in the Research and Development unit. Within a few years, he became executive assistant to the Executive Director of JDC-Israel, Alberto Senderey. Beginning in 1989, Bar-Chaim directed the Transmigrant Program in Vienna, responsible for tens of thousands of Jews coming there annually from the former Soviet Union on their way to Western countries. Later in 1989, Bar-Chaim was also named JDC Country Director for the Socialist Federation of Yugoslavia. He held this post until 2007. In 1990, he assumed a parallel role for former Czechoslovakia, at which he continued until 2011. Similarly at this time, he took over renewing activities in post-Communist Bulgaria. In the early 1990s, he relinquished his responsibilities in Slovakia to have more time for the JDC’s activities during the Bosnian conflict. From 1999 to 2014, Bar-Chaim served as Country Director for Tunisia and Algeria.
Since 2000, Yechiel is responsible for the philanthropic donations granted to JDC by the late Dr. Alfred Bader for a variety of non-sectarian projects in Israel, Central Europe, the Balkans, and Turkey.
Record Group 4: Sara Bogen Oral History Interview
Date(s): August 30 and September 19, 2021
Scope and Content Note: Oral history interviews of Sara Bogen conducted by Zvi Feine over Zoom in August and September of 2021. The interviews cover Bogen’s work with the JDC over 24 years in Israel, the Former Soviet Union (FSU), and New York. The interviews were conducted over two sessions. Transcript and Zoom video recordings are available to access the oral history.
NOTE: The oral history was conducted over two separate sessions on Zoom. Therefore, there are two separate Zoom videos. However, the transcript has been combined into a single PDF for ease of access. The footer on each page of the transcript indicates which recording the text of that page is from.
Session 1 (August 30, 2021) covered: Zvi Feine, Chaim Tzippori, Margot Pines, Ami Bergman, Hank Havassy, Yoel Siegel, Schwartz Program, Israel Association of Community Centers, Chevrat HaMatnasim, Community Centers, Israel, Former Soviet Union, Olim, Community Center Projects.
Session 2 (September 19, 2021) covered: Asher Ostrin, Michael Schneider, Seymour Epstein, Julia Levova, Aharon Weiss, Hillel International, Buncher Program, Former Soviet Union, Belarus, Community Center Projects, Fall of Soviet Union.
Biographical Note: Sara Bogen was born in Israel. She is a graduate of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, holding a B.A. degree in Psychology, and a postgraduate certificate from the Schwartz Program for training directors and senior staff for community centers. Bogen also received her M.S. degree in Public Management of Non-profit Organizations from the Wagner School at New York University.
For over 40 years, Bogen served as a leading professional and lay leader in the field of Jewish Community Development, specifically in Jewish Community Centers.
Joining the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee toward the end of 1980, Bogen served for 24 years in multiple positions. From 1980 to 1986, Bogen was the Projects Coordinator of Community Centers in Israel later serving as the Projects Director from 1986 to 1989. From 1989 to 1991, Bogen served in New York as the Israel Desk officer. Returning to Israel in 1991, Bogen was the Division Head of Community Development in Israel from 1991 to 1993 followed by Division Head of Community Centers in the Former Soviet Union (FSU) Department from 1993 to 2004. During the last decade of her career with JDC, she also served as Country Director in the FSU Department for the following countries and regions: Urals, 1993-1995; Belarus, 1995-1997; and St. Petersburg and North West Russia, 1997-2001.
Record Group 5: Yitzhak Brick Oral History Interview
Date(s): October 26, 2021
Scope and Content Note: Oral history interview of Yitzhak Brick conducted by Zvi Feine over Zoom on October 26, 2021. The interview covers Brick’s work as the Director of Eshel for 24 years from the late 1980s to the early 2000s. The focus of the interview was on services for the elderly in Israel. Additional subjects covered include: Uri Laor, Zvi Feine, Eshel, Malben, Israel, and Elderly care. Transcript and Zoom video recording are available to access the oral history.
Biographical Note: Professor Yitzhak Brick studied Sociology, Education, and Criminology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and has a Ph.D. in Social Policy, Planning, and Administration from Brandeis University.
Brick served as the Director General of JDC-ESHEL, the Association for the Planning and Development of Services for the Aged in Israel, from 1988 until September 2012.
Brick came to JDC-ESHEL following a decade as Deputy Director-General of Israel’s Ministry of Labor & Social Affairs. Prior to this position, he held other top positions in the Ministry of Welfare, where he served for 25 years.
Serving on many national and international boards and committees concerned with social planning and care for the aged, Brick was the president of the International Federation on Aging (IFA) in 2000-2006. In 2005, he was appointed as a professor by Haifa University.
Since 2013, Brick is the chairman of the Israeli Gerontological Society since January 2013, adviser to the Knesset committee on the national plan on aging, and director on the board of Amigour.
Professor Brick edited three books on aging: The Family and the Elderly (2010), The Elderly and Poverty, (2005), and The Politics of Aging, (2002), and co-edited several other books.
Record Group 6: Manlio Dell’Ariccia Oral History Interview
More details forthcoming.
Record Group 7: Robert Djerassi Oral History Interview
Date(s): March 15, 2022
Scope and Content Note: Oral history interview of Robert Djerassi conducted by Linda Levi over Zoom on March 15, 2022. The interview covers Djerassi’s work for JDC in Bulgaria and other countries from the 1990s through the early 2000s. The interview covered the work done by Djerassi in Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia, and Bosnia including the organization of Bulgarian Jews (Shalom), Limmud, the Ronald Lauder School, Jewish education in Bulgaria, old age homes, computer training in Bulgaria, Yechiel Bar-Chaim, Moshe Jahoda, Ronald Lauder, Rachel Brodie, Adam Weisberg, and Alberto Senderey. Transcript and Zoom video recording are available to access the oral history.
Biographical Note: Robert Djerassi was born in 1948 in Bulgaria. Graduating from Warsaw Polytechnic and Sofia Polytechnic, Djerassi studied mechanical engineering and atomic power stations. Prior to joining JDC, he worked as an engineer. His first position at JDC was Assistant to the JDC Country Director of Bulgaria from 1992 to 2002. He took over as Deputy Country Director for Bulgaria and Serbia from 2003 to 2007 and finally served as Program Director for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Kosovo from 2007 to 2014 at which point he retired from JDC.
Since leaving JDC, Djerassi has served as advisor to the Minister of Education and Science as well as advisor to the Chairman of the Commission of Protection from Discrimination, both in Bulgaria.
Record Group 8: Seymour Epstein Oral History Interview
Date(s): October 25, 2021
Scope and Content Note: Oral history interview of Seymour “Epi” Epstein conducted by Linda Levi over Zoom in October, 2021. The interview covers the 18 years Epstein worked for the JDC, particularly his time as Director of Education. The time period covered is the 1980s to the 1990s. Subjects discussed focus mostly on Jewish community building in Siberia and Morocco as well as Jewish education in Morocco, FSU, and Siberia. Transcript and Zoom video recording are available to access the oral history. Additionally, Epstein shared an essay, “5726 (1965-66):The Year That Changed My Life” written in December 2020 to supplement his oral history.
Biographical Note: Seymour “Epi” Epstein, better known as Epi, was born January 3, 1946 in Toronto, Canada. Epstein received a B.A. in Hebrew Literature in 1968 from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, a B.S. in 1968 from Columbia University, his M.A. in 1970 from Brandeis University, and the Ed.D. in 1976 from the University of Toronto. His thesis focused on Models of Jewish Learning.
Prior to joining the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), Epstein worked at United Synagogue Day School in Toronto and helped to found an experimental high school there in 1971. From 1973 to 1978, he was an assistant professor at McGill University where he directed the Jewish Teacher Training Program of Montreal. He was actively involved in Camp Ramah and directed the Canadian Ramah for three summers.
Epstein’s first post with the JDC began in 1981 when he moved to Morocco to become the educational consultant in Casablanca. During his eighteen years of JDC work, he was active in Morocco, Western Europe, and the Former Soviet Union. He served the JDC as Director of Jewish Education and was responsible for community development in Siberia, Russia.
After leaving JDC, from 1999 to 2009, Epstein was the director of Toronto’s Board of Jewish Education at UJA Federation. In 2009 his first book, From Couscous to Kasha: Reporting From the Field of Jewish Community Work, was published by Urim Publications. The Esther Scroll: The Author’s Tale was published by Mosaic Press in 2019. He continues to consult in the field of Jewish education and community planning.
Record Group 9: Zvi Feine Oral History Interview
Date(s): October 4, 21 and November 18, 2021
Scope and Content Note: Oral history interviews of Zvi Feine conducted by Linda Levi over Zoom in October and November of 2021. The interviews cover Feine’s work with the JDC over three decades in Israel, New York, and particularly Poland and Romania. The interviews were conducted over three sessions. Transcript and Zoom video recording are available to access the oral history.
NOTE: The oral history was conducted over three separate sessions on Zoom. Therefore, there are three separate Zoom videos. However, the transcript has been combined into a single PDF for ease of access. The footer on each page of the transcript indicates which recording the text of that page is from.
Session 1 (October 4, 2021) covered: Dr. Arnulf M. Pins, Ralph Goldman, Hank Havassy, Chaim Tzippori, Dr. Yitzhak Brick, Malben, Eshel, Arnie Pins Memorial Fund, Elka, Israel, the creation of JDC Israel, and fundraising.
Session 2 (October 21, 2021) covered: Dr. Leon Leiberg, Rabbi Dr. Moses Rosen, Theodor Blumenfeld, Rabbi Ernest Neumann, Sandra Segal, Yosef Hirsh, Dr. Akiva Kohane, Federation of the Jewish Communities in Romania (FEDROM), Jewish Service Corps, Romania, Poland, and the Romanian Revolution.
Session 3 (November 18, 2021) covered: Yossi Erez, Yitzhak Zohar, Szymon Szurmiej, Sylvia Hassenfeld, Manlio Dell’Ariccia, Ronald Lauder Foundation, Social and Cultural Association of Jews in Poland (TSKZ), Szarvas Camp, The World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO), Eshel, Poland, transition from communism, welfare issues, and property restitution.
Biographical Note: Zvi Feine was born in New York, USA, in 1942, and made Aliyah to Israel in 1960. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and received his Doctorate from the School of Social Work at the University of Pennsylvania.
Feine served in a variety of capacities over his career with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). He served for over five years as JDC Country Director for Poland (1989-1995) and almost nineteen years as JDC Country Director for Romania (1988-2005), providing professional support for the Jewish community’s youth programs, as well as its health and social services, with an emphasis on aiding elderly, indigent Jews. In 1986 and 1987, Feine was JDC Consultant on Social Services for many countries including Morocco, France, Romania and trans-migrant programs in Vienna and Rome. He was also Chief Program Officer for JDC-New York in 2001 and 2002, which included the role of Area Director for Central and Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Additionally, Feine was Deputy-Director of JDC-Israel for thirty years. He is also a former Director of the Hebrew University’s Schwartz Program – now Master’s Degree program in Non-profit Management.
Since his retirement in 2010, Feine has provided high-level consultation to JDC and various non-profit organizations in Israel. He also served as Acting Director of the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel, for 2015.
Record Group 10: Jack Habib Oral History Interview
Date(s): May 4, 2022
Scope and Content Note: Oral history interview of Jack Habib conducted by Linda Levi over Zoom on May 4, 2022. The interview covers Habib’s time at the JDC in Israel. The time period covered is the mid-1970s through the 2010s. The interview covered creation of the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute and the evolution of social research supported by the organization. Subjects covered include Israel Katz, Jona Rosenfeld, Herb Singer, Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute, Eshel, Israel, Ethiopian Aliyah, research on aging in Israel, and partnerships with the Israeli government. Transcript and Zoom video recording are available to access the oral history.
Biographical Note: Professor Jack Habib received his Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University and is professor emeritus of economics and social work at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Habib began at the JDC in the mid-1970s becoming Director of the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute from 1988 until 2017. He also served as Director of JDC-Israel from 1991 to 1994.
He has served on many Israeli national commissions established to improve various aspects of the social service system and has participated in numerous international professional exchange programs, collaborative research projects and multi-national conferences. In recent years he was involved in initiatives to introduce ongoing outcome measurement systems in organizations and to strategize information needs.
He worked closely with the Jewish Federations of North America and with organizations and foundations around the world with respect to their programming in Israel and the social service system in their own communities. He is a past President of the World Council of Jewish Communal Services.
Prof. Habib writes and lectures extensively on economics and social developments in Israel. He is the author of numerous books and articles in the field of social welfare in Israel and internationally.
Record Group 11: Rick Hodes Oral History Interview
Date(s): November 1 and 5, 2021
Scope and Content Note: Oral history interviews of Rick Hodes conducted by Will Recant over Zoom in November 2021. The interviews cover Hodes’ work as a medical doctor and director with the JDC over three decades primarily in Ethiopia. The time period covered is 1980s to the 2010s. General subjects include Operation Solomon, tuberculosis, and medical work in Ethiopia. The interviews were conducted over two sessions. Transcript and Zoom video recording are available to access the oral history.
NOTE: The oral history was conducted over two separate sessions on Zoom. Therefore, there are two separate Zoom videos. However, the transcript has been combined into a single PDF for ease of access. The footer on each page of the transcript indicates which recording the text of that page is from.
Session 1 (November 1, 2021) covered: Manlio Dell ‘Ariccia, Dr. Girma Tolossa, Theodore “Ted” Myers, Uri Lubrani, Boaz Bismuth, Eli Eliezri, The Jewish Agency, Ethiopia, Israel, Ethiopian Civil War, Medicine in Ethiopia, Operation Solomon, Falash Mura population, Qwara Jew, Tuberculosis, AIDS, circumcision
Session 2 (November 5, 2021) covered: Manlio Dell ‘Ariccia, Stephen Kutner, Jaynie Schultz, Oheneba Boachie-Adjei, Gary Segal, Marilyn Berger, The Jewish Agency, Jewish Healthcare International, Mother Teresa Missions, North American Conference on Ethiopian Jews (NACOEJ), non-sectarian Spine Clinic in Ghana, Ethiopia, Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo), Albania, Ghana, India, Operationa Solomon, Aliyah from Ethiopia, spinal deformities in Ethiopia, Rwandan Genocide, Rwandan Refugees, family planning, measles, tuberculosis, nurtition, non-sectarian work, trauma counseling
Biographical Note: Dr. Richard Hodes was born on Long Island in 1953. After graduating from Middlebury College with a BA in Geography, Hodes attended the University of Rochester Medical School and trained in internal medicine at Johns Hopkins University. He worked as a medical doctor in Ethiopia during the famine in the 1980s and remained in Ethiopia on a Fulbright Fellowship from 1985 to 1988.
Hodes joined JDC in 1990 to medically assist Ethiopian immigrants to Israel. He served as the physician for approximately 75,000 Ethiopian immigrants, about 1% of the Israeli population. An integral participant in Operation Solomon, he also worked in Rwanda, Zaire, Tanzania, and Albania during refugee crises.
He has adopted five Ethiopian children with severe medical needs. Three had severe spine deformities and had a total of 7 spine surgeries in the United States.
Dr. Hodes is currently the medical director of JDC’s Ethiopia Spine and Heart Project. He is the subject of the book, This is a Soul: The Mission of Rick Hodes by Marilyn Berger, and several documentary films, including Bewoket, Zemene, and Making the Crooked Straight. He has been awarded five honorary doctorates.
Record Group 12: Arnon Mantver Oral History Interview
Date(s): November 15, 2021
Scope and Content Note: Oral history interview of Arnon Mantver conducted by Amir Shaviv over Zoom in November 2021. The interview covers Mantver’s time as director of JDC-Israel from 1995 to 2014. Focus was on the various social welfare programs in Israel created by JDC in the late 1990s through the early 2000s including ESHEL, Ashalim, and the Ethiopian immigrant community in Israel. Transcript and Zoom video recording are available to access the oral history.
Biographical Note: Arnon Mantver received an MA in Communications and a BA in Political Science and Sociology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Prior to his work with JDC, he served as Director General of the Department of Immigration and Absorption at the Jewish Agency, Director General of the Israeli Forum, Founder and Volunteer Chairman of Otzma, and Manager of the Center for Immigration to Israel in the northwest United States.
Mantver served as Director General of JDC-Israel from 1995 to 2014. During his tenure, Mantver developed a partnership model with the Government of Israel. He served as the Founding Chairman of Ashalim for the development of services for children at risk in cooperation with the Government of Israel and the New York Federation (est. 1997), Tevet for the integration of marginalized populations into the workforce in cooperation with Weinberg Foundation (est. 2004), Massad Klita for the development of services for immigrants to Israel (est. 2002), and Israel Unlimited for the development of services for people with disabilities (est. 2010). Under Mantver’s leadership, JDC-Israel won the Israel Prize in 2007.
From 1999–2001, Mantver served in JDC-New York as Director of Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa, and the International Development Program. In June 2014, Mantver concluded his role as Director General of JDC-Israel.
Record Group 13: Jonathan Porath Oral History Interview
Date(s): June 20, 2021
Scope and Content Note: Oral history interview of Jonathan Porath conducted by Sara Bogen over Zoom in June, 2021. The interview covers the 15 years Porath worked for the JDC in the Former Soviet Union. The time period covered is the 1990s to the early 2000s. The interview covered the rebuilding of a Jewish community in Russia immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Subjects covered include JDC programs such as Sefer, YESOD, as well as Hillel and Jewish Community Centers (JCCs). Porath discusses his work with Ralph Goldman, Asher Ostrin, and Seymour Epstein. Transcript and Zoom video recording are available to access the oral history.
Biographical Note: Rabbi Jonathan Porath served on the Senior Staff of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) Russia Department from 1993 through 2008, immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union in December, 1991.
Jonathan grew up in America, attended Brandeis University, Columbia University, and was ordained a rabbi by the Jewish Theological Seminary. He and his family made Aliyah to Israel in 1984.
Porath had Russian experience pre-dating his work with the JDC. His first trip to the USSR was in 1965 as a student visitor, then, inspired by reading Elie Wiesel’s epic The Jews of Silence went to Moscow in 1968 to celebrate Simchat Torah, and subsequently took Jewish youth groups (USY) to visit Soviet Jews from 1969 through 1974. He wrote the first textbook on Russian Jewry for Hebrew High Schools and adult education: Jews of Russia: The Last Four Centuries [United Synagogue, 1973].
During his tenure with JDC, he was Country Director for the Urals, Belarus, St. Petersburg and the Northwest, and Central Russia. Porath also held portfolios in academic and adult Jewish education and Hillel. Much of his time was spent in the periphery areas of the Urals. Among his major responsibilities was constructing and opening YESOD, the St. Petersburg Jewish Community House, a landmark project of the JDC in the Former Soviet Union.
Record Group 14: Diane Rosenbaum Oral History Interview
Date(s): February 9, 2022
Scope and Content Note: Oral history interview of Diane Rosenbaum conducted by Amir Shaviv over Zoom in February 2022. The interview covers Rosenbaum’s work as Country Director in Hungary and Czechoslovakia before the fall of Communism. The time period covered is the 1980s. The interview covers the conditions under which Rosenbaum had to work with the Jewish communities in Hungary and Czechoslovakia while still under communist rule. Also discussed is the creation of what became the Szarvas Camp and other successful programs in both countries. Subjects covered include Elona “Ile” Seiferi, Desider Galsky, Imre Miklos, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic), Hungary, Szarvas Camp, Communism. Transcript and Zoom video recording are available to access the oral history.
Biographical Note: Diane Rosenbaum grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. After graduation from George Washington University with a BA degree in Political Science and Sociology, she moved to Israel. There she worked for the Jewish Agency Executive in the planning of the 1969 Conference on Human Needs. Rosenbaum was involved in coordinating the research for many of the workshops. Returning to the U.S. She received her MSW from Boston College, School of Social Work with a concentration in community organization and public administration.
Diane Rosenbaum joined JDC as Country Director for Hungary and Czechoslovakia in 1982. In addition, she was the JDC liaison to the Council of Jewish Communal Services. Diane Rosenbaum left JDC in 1989.
Record Group 15: Steven Schwager Oral History Interview
Date(s): January 25, 2022
Scope and Content Note: Oral history interview of Steven Schwager conducted by Pablo Weinsteiner over Zoom in January 2022. The interview covers the 23 years Schwager worked for the JDC. The time period covered is the late 1980s to 2013. The interview covered major changes in JDC during Schwager’s tenure, particularly as the CEO. Of particular note is a discussion about the growth of the JDC organization in terms of staffing and the changes in funding and fundraising over the years he was at JDC. Subjects covered include: Operation Solomon, Ethiopian Jews, Elderly care, Palestinians, Ultra-Orthodox Jews, Family Services, Jewish Renewal, Jewish Identity, Eugene Ribakoff, Michael Schneider, Ralph Goldman, Alberto Senderey, the Former Soviet Union, Israel, Ethiopia, Hungary, Camp Szarvas, Hesed, and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. Transcript and Zoom video recording are available to access the oral history.
Biographical Note: Steven Schwager worked at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee for 23 years starting in 1989, rising to the level of Chief Executive Officer and Executive Vice President before retiring in 2013. During his tenure, Mr. Schwager held various positions including Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer. Previously, he was a Chief Business Official of the New York City Board of Education from 1983 to 1989, and from 1976 to 1983, he was the Chief Auditor of the New York City Comptroller’s Office. He received a B.A. from Queens College, City University of New York. Schwager holds Certified Public Accountant licenses in New York and New Jersey. In 2013 Schwager was appointed by President Obama to serve as a member of the President of the United States Global Development Council. He served in that position for four years.
Record Group 16: Alberto Senderey Oral History Interview
More details forthcoming.
Record Group 17: Rami Sulimani Oral History Interview
Date(s): March 10, 2022
Scope and Content Note: Oral history interview of Rami Sulimani conducted by Sara Bogen over Zoom in March 2022. The interview covers the three decades Sulimani worked for the JDC. The time period covered is the late 1990s to 2020. The interview covered the work of JDC within Israel, with a focus on youth in Israel and the work of Ashalim. Of particular note is the discussion around children and poverty and drop-out rates of youth in Israel. Transcript and Zoom video recording are available to access the oral history.
Biographical Note: Rami Sulimani was born in 1952 in Israel. He was educated at the Kannot Youth Village and then earned a Bachelor’s in Education and Geography as well as a Master’s degree in Criminology from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a Master’s in Social Sciences from Haifa University, and a doctorate in Education from the University of Sussex. Beginning in 1990, Sulimani held positions at JDC ultimately becoming the Director of Ashalim until 2020.
Record Group 18: Gideon Taylor Oral History Interview
More details forthcoming.