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Humanitarian organization commemorates 100 years of effort

A synagogue
A synagogue
photo courtesy of JDC for The New-York Historical Society

The JDC, a 100 year-old Jewish humanitarian assistance organization that helps Jews and non-Jews around the world is now the focus of an exhibition that runs at the New York Historical Society today through September 21. "I Live. Send Help" chronicles the work of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) through photographs, artifacts, films and audio recordings, adds The News Tribune, according to an article that ran in Associated Press (AP). For more on this report visit

“The JDC was founded in New York in 1914 to help Jews in the Middle East and Europe suffering at the beginning of World War I. As new crises emerged, it expanded its efforts to more than 70 countries,” added The Associated Press. “More recently, it distributed relief supplies to typhoon victims in the Philippines and currently offers cultural and educational opportunities to the Jewish community in Ukraine.”
Among the exhibition highlights that I was moved by when visiting the exhibit was a photo in 1921 of the now famous painter Marc Chagall photographed with teachers and children outside a school; run by the JDC outside Moscow, Russia. In 1941, Chagall was actually saved by the JDC, which through the organization’s efforts saved Chagall and his wife Bella, who escaped the war in Europe aboard the SS Mouzhino that carried 798 other passengers from Lisbon, Portugal, to the United States, according to AP reports.

Included in this moving, powerful exhibit is “a 1940 letter from Albert Einstein to the JDC chairman urging nations in the Western Hemisphere to help children escape Nazi persecution,” adds AP in the report that ran on The News Tribune. "Efforts to save these children must not slacken...," Einstein writes. "It is not only a question of bringing them to the States, other countries must be opened to them." This letter by Einstein and other artifacts are movingly displayed at The New York Historical Society.
According to the JDC, one of the most poignant artifacts is a pair of eyeglasses held together by string, wire and rubber bands, and worn by an elderly Russian Jewish man until they were replaced by the JFC in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union. “Among other objects is a child's dress distributed to a Holocaust survivor at Ellis Island,” adds AP.

According to these moving words poignantly describe what a visitor to The National Historical Society might expect to view at the exhibit of JDC memorabilia and audio recordings: “I live require help.” “These four words, sent in a cablegram from Luba Mizne in Warsaw to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in July 1945, perfectly encapsulate the theme of an exhibit opening tomorrow at the New-York Historical Society. Aptly titled “’I Live. Send Help:’ 100 Years of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee,” the exhibit commemorates the aid organization’s 100th anniversary by sharing its diverse collection of photographs, artifacts, film clips, and documents with the public in partnership with the New-York Historical society,” adds

“There’s an audio recording of entertainer Eddie Cantor endorsing the JDC’s work during WWII, and of Alaska Airlines president James Wooten describing his involvement in the JDC-organized evacuation of Jews from Yemen. Most poignant, however, are the personal artifacts on display, like the dress belonging to Lilli Platt of New York, which was one of the items distributed to Jewish refugees arriving at Ellis Island from Europe in 1949,” adds

“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,” the aid organization’s CEO Alan H. Gill said in a statement. “This exhibition truly celebrates JDC’s ten decades of unparalleled global humanitarian service and Jewish community development.” Adds the JDC in a statement: “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.”
The JDC states: “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 in a press statement. “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.”

For Staten Islanders interested in more information about this and other JDC exhibits visit This is one historical exhibit that every New Yorker should see and experience for themselves. The summer The New York Historical Society is open Tuesday through Thursday and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Today (Friday) the museum is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum is closed every Monday. For more information about this and other exhibits visit