JDC Global Archives website brings Jewish history to life

by | May 4, 2012 | Other News

Which U.S. president publicly urged Americans to support the first campaign aiding war-ravaged Jews overseas? Which organization brought the first John Deere tractor to Ukraine? What killer disease was eradicated in Ottoman Palestine by a Jewish doctor?

Such historical gems, together with harrowing eye-witness testimonies of war, strife, and Jewish community life in Jerusalem, Warsaw and Morocco comprise the hundreds of thousands of searchable documents and more than 45,000 photos now available at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s (JDC) Global Archives website, http://archives.jdc.org. The website, and the JDC Global Archives digitization project were made possible through a lead gift from Dr. Georgette Bennett and Dr. Leonard Polonsky. Drawn from the humanitarian organization’s vast international collection, the online compilation currently represents materials from JDC’s founding in 1914 through 1932. Additional records are being added in the coming year.

“The JDC Archives document an important chapter of modern history. It would be tragic if they had been lost. They will now be broadly accessible and available for posterity,” says Polonsky.

The website offers extensive photo galleries, including photos by renowned photographers Walter Limot and Al Taylor; lists of more than 7,000 aid recipients from the First World War Era, and a video lecture series on JDC from Professor Yehuda Bauer. With materials for scholars, educators, genealogists, and the general public, the site also has a tutorial for site visitors. Users will be able to match archival documents with photos, the names index, and oral histories. The website includes material for serious scholarly research, curated exhibits, and a search option for those interested in family history and general Jewish interest.

“The importance of this website, and JDC’s archives overall, is not just that it uniquely chronicles Jewish life abroad for the past 100 years, it’s that it demonstrates how one organization steadfastly stood by its vow to help Jews in need, wherever they were,” says New York University Professor Marion Kaplan.

Whether it’s the shocking field reports of pogroms in Polish cities during the WWI, vintage fundraising posters depicting the plight of Jewish suffering, or papers detailing the remarkable cooperation of JDC and the American government in alleviating famine in Ukraine, all can be found through an integrated search of text, photos, and names.

“JDC’s Archives contains some of the most remarkable stories of Jewish life and Jewish heroism in the last 100 years. No matter what your background or reason for visiting this site, you will be inspired by tales of perseverance, bravery, and an unquenchable desire to hold onto our Jewish identity in the most difficult of circumstances,” says JDC CEO Steven Schwager.
A special feature on the site is a virtual memorial to more than 40 JDC staff who died in the field. Victims of Nazism, Communism, and other tragedies,these men and women were dedicated to saving lives and rebuilding communities. “Their legacy is our mission, even today,” says Schwager.

Paired with the website launch is recruitment for the Fred and Ellen Lewis JDC Archives Fellowship. Designed for scholars engaged in graduate level, post-doctoral, or independent study, the fellowship’s research can take place in either New York or Jerusalem in JDC Archives facilities. Topics for consideration include 20th century Jewish history, general history, and humanitarian assistance, as well as other areas of academic research covered in the JDC archival collections.

JDC previously made available a collection of its historic records and photographs from the Holocaust period on the Our Shared Legacy mini-site, now part of the JDC Global Archives website.

About JDC
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) is the world’s leading Jewish humanitarian assistance organization. JDC works in more than 70 countries and in Israel to alleviate hunger and hardship, rescue Jews in danger, create lasting connections to Jewish life, and provide immediate relief and long-term development support for victims of natural
and man-made disasters. To learn more, visit www.JDC.org. It is a recipient of funds from the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.