Visu­al Arts

I Live. Send Help: 100 Years of Jew­ish His­to­ry in Images from the JDC Archives.

Mer­ri Ukrain­cik; Lin­da G. Levi, ed.; David Bez­mozgis, fwd.
  • Review
By – February 13, 2015

Pub­lished in cel­e­bra­tion of one hun­dred years of the exis­tence of what is now the Amer­i­can Jew­ish Joint Dis­tri­b­u­tion Com­mit­tee, I LIVE.SEND HELP (the text of a cable) is an album of doc­u­ments and pho­tos from the archives that were also on dis­play dur­ing the sum­mer of 2014 at the Amer­i­can His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety in New York City.

Known in all size and far-flung Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties sim­ply as The Joint”, It has been amaz­ing­ly able to respond quick­ly and cre­ative­ly (as evi­denced by the images in this book) to the many crises that have befall­en Jews in the last hun­dred years, with food, water, shel­ter, and med­ical supplies. 

The roots of the orga­ni­za­tion –called a relief agency” go back to the hor­rif­ic con­di­tions cre­at­ed by the out­break of World War I, when wealthy New York phil­an­thropists Jacob Schiff and Felix War­burg called a meet­ing after a cable was received from Hen­ry Mor­gen­thau, Sr., then Ambas­sador to the Ottoman Empire, ask­ing for emer­gency funds to alle­vi­ate the suf­fer­ing of the Pales­tine Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties due to the war.

The cable is repro­duced along with a pho­to of a meet­ing in the office of Felix War­burg of rep­re­sen­ta­tives of dif­fer­ent relief orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing mem­bers of both the Ortho­dox and Reform. A 1916 let­ter from Mor­gen­thau is also repro­duced where he writes Today in Poland, in Gali­cia, in Lithua­nia, in Rus­sia, in Pales­tine, in Turkey, whole fam­i­lies are being dri­ven back and forth and back again by invad­ing armies, are home­less and dying from hunger and expo­sure.” Etc., etc.

The Joint orga­nized med­ical units and a Trans­mis­sion Bureau” to pro­vide an avenue for peo­ple in Amer­i­ca to help their rel­a­tives in Europe. 

Poignant are the pho­tos of refugees in places such as Siberia and Japan from that peri­od, which includes the dis­place­ment of Jews fol­low­ing the Russ­ian revolution.

From the ini­tial man­date to pro­vide relief the Joint expand­ed its mis­sion to include voca­tion­al train­ing pro­grams and agri­cul­tur­al set­tle­ments for refugees and peo­ple wish­ing to emi­grate so that they would be able to reestab­lish them­selves and be self –suf­fi­cient. They estab­lished camps and kinder­gartens fol­low­ing the war to help rebuild lives. Their work before, dur­ing, and after World War II is pre­sent­ed in pho­tos and documents.

The mis­sion to help the most vul­ner­a­ble – the elder­ly, orphans, hand­i­capped and ill – , is rep­re­sent­ed in this vol­ume as well.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the Joint has nev­er had a slow peri­od. After World War II their work con­cen­trat­ed on help­ing refugees reach pre-state Israel and fol­low­ing the estab­lish­ment of the state of Israel, in help­ing com­mu­ni­ties from Arab lands and North Africa to reach Israel. East­ern Europe con­tin­ues to reach out to the JDC. as do the bor­der com­mu­ni­ties in Israel under threat of mis­sile attacks. Wher­ev­er pos­si­ble JDC helps local com­mu­ni­ties func­tion more expe­di­tious­ly and that is also one of JDC’s hallmarks. 

This vol­ume is a visu­al tes­ta­ment to how one orga­ni­za­tion car­ries out the Jew­ish tra­di­tion of All Israel is respon­si­ble one for the oth­er.” What it is not is a research tool. There is nei­ther pag­i­na­tion, nor archival infor­ma­tion, nor an index. It is def­i­nite­ly edu­ca­tion­al and impres­sive if some­what depress­ing to con­sid­er the ongo­ing ten­u­ous­ness of Jew­ish life in so many places. 

Pur­chase this book here.

Relat­ed content:

Esther Nuss­baum, the head librar­i­an of Ramaz Upper School for 30 years, is now edu­ca­tion and spe­cial projects coor­di­na­tor of the Halachic Organ Donor Soci­ety. A past edi­tor of Jew­ish Book World, she con­tin­ues to review for this and oth­er publications.

Discussion Questions