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2014-05-05

“I Live. Send Help.” 100 Years of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee

Exhibition at New-York Historical Society Features Never-Before-Seen Documents From Humanitarian Group’s 100 Years

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

New York, NY, May 5, 2014
– On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) a new exhibition, “I Live. Send Help.” 100 Years of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, will be on view at the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library in New York City, from June 13 through September 21, 2014. Founded in New York City in 1914 as a response to the plight of Jews in Europe and Ottoman Palestine at the outset of World War I, JDC has become a premier humanitarian organization helping Jews and non-Jews in need worldwide.

A collaboration between the New-York Historical Society and JDC, the exhibition recounts JDC’s 100-year history with photographs, objects, films, and letters dating from 1914 compiled from JDC’s extensive Global Archives in New York and Jerusalem. The exhibition is curated by Marilyn Satin Kushner, Curator and Head, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections at the New-York Historical Society, with JDC Global Archives Director Linda Levi.

"We are proud to be partnering with the venerable New-York Historical Society to highlight JDC's enduring role in one of humankind's most tumultuous centuries, offering hope and opportunity for Jews and so many others around the world,"said JDC’s CEO Alan H. Gill.“This exhibition truly celebrates JDC’s ten decades of unparalleled global humanitarian service and Jewish community development – from rescue, poverty alleviation, Jewish cultural and educational opportunities, social innovation, and disaster relief work that has benefitted millions of people and transformed countless lives in Israel and more than 90 countries overseas since JDC's founding,”

“I Live. Send Help.” will chronicle JDC from its inception in 1914, when Jacob Schiff, Henry Morgenthau, Sr., and other Jewish philanthropists came together in New York City to help needy Jews in the Middle East and Europe suffering at the outset of World War I. After the war ended, new crises emerged and JDC - originally intended as a temporary initiative - continued and expanded its efforts around the world. During the buildup to World War II, JDC helped relocate Jewish refugees and save them from Nazi persecution, in places as far and wide as Shanghai, China; La Paz, Bolivia; Kobe, Japan; and Sosua, Dominican Republic. JDC was critical in rehabilitating and resettling survivors of the Holocaust after their liberation. The exhibition also visits the challenges facing Jewish communities in North Africa and the Middle East, and focuses on JDC's most recent relief activities rebuilding Jewish communities of the former Soviet Union and aiding Filipinos in the wake of the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan.

Exhibition Highlights
Highlights of “I Live. Send Help.” include a long-lost 1940 letter from Albert Einstein to JDC Chairman Edward Warburg, revealing the renowned Jewish scientist and Nobel laureate's dedication to helping children escape Nazi persecution in Europe. In the exchange, Einstein praises the JDC for its work and implores nations in the Americas to admit more Jewish refugees: “Efforts to save these children must not slacken... It is not only a question of bringing them to the States, other countries must be opened to them…In all these efforts the aid of the Joint Distribution Committee is of the utmost importance.”

A 1921 photograph of elderly men, women, and children desperately waiting to receive food outside the JDC-sponsored Dreyfus Soup Kitchen in Jerusalem illustrates the chaos in which JDC operated in its earliest years.

The exhibit will feature rare audio recordings including entertainer Eddie Cantor’s radio endorsement of JDC’s WWII-era work and testimony by an Alaska Airlines pilot involved in the JDC-organized evacuation of Jews from Yemen. In addition, the exhibit will screen a documentary on the St. Louis ocean liner, whose Jewish refugee passengers were aided by JDC; footage from the JDC-run evacuation of Jews, Muslims, and Christians from the Siege of Sarajevo during the 1990s; and images of the reemergence of Jewish communities in the former Soviet Union after the fall of Communism.

The public has also contributed personal artifacts to the exhibition, including a dress provided by JDC to Jewish refugees from Europe arriving at Ellis Island in 1949. This dress was given to Lilli Platt of New York as a young child after arriving in the U.S. A pair of eyeglasses held together by string, wire, and rubber bands were donated to JDC in 1991 by the original Russian Jewish owner. The elderly man received these eyeglasses on his demobilization from the Red Army after World War II, and they still contain his original prescription as he never had the equivalent of the 6 cents needed to update it. JDC replaced the original eyewear for him when it began working in post-Soviet Russia in the early 1990s.

JDC’s centennial events are steered by an esteemed ad-hoc committee chaired by Andrew Tisch and leading members Nancy Grosfeld, Sam Pollack, Jerry Spitzer, Patricia Werthan Uhlmann, Caryn Wolf Wechsler and Jane Weitzman.

Accompanying the exhibition is the newly-published 160-page photo book I Live. Send Helpwith a prologue by award-winning author David Bezmozgis and generously underwritten by Jerome and Linda Spitzer of New York. The book is available for purchase at http://www.jdc.org/purchase-JDC100th-book for $29.95.

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. For more information, visit www.JDC.org.

About the New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society, one of America's pre-eminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research and presenting history and art exhibitions and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered history of New York City and State and the country, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history.
 

Creative: Tronvig Group