A long lost letter from physicist Albert Einstein and rare photos — including one from the Warsaw Ghetto smuggled out of Poland during World War II — are among the historic documents revealed for the first time in , a new art book of modern Jewish history published by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). Released on the occasion of the humanitarian group’s centennial, the 160-page volume of photographs, vintage posters, and letters dating from 1914 has been compiled from JDC’s extensive Global Archives in New York and Jerusalem. Author Merri Ukraincik provided accompanying texts while award-winning novelist David Bezmozgis, whose family members were aided by JDC when they left Soviet Latvia for North America, wrote the volume’s prologue.
‘Our archives provide a unique and revelatory glimpse into the triumphs and travails of the last 100 years of Jewish history,’ said JDC Global Archives Director Linda Levi, who edited the book. ‘Many of the items that are being shown to the public for the first time shed new light on historic events like the plight of Jews in Europe and the Middle East during World War I, the Holocaust and the creation of Israel, to name a few. They illustrate our important role in helping Jews wherever they are through the 20th and 21st centuries.’
For instance, a recently rediscovered letter sent by Einstein to JDC in 1940 reveals the extent to which the renowned Jewish scientist and Nobel laureate was dedicated to helping youths escape Nazi persecution in Europe. In the exchange, Einstein extols the Jewish group for its work and implores nations in the Americas to admit more Jewish refugees: ‘Efforts to save these children must not slacken,’ he wrote in a letter of praise to JDC Chairman Edward Warburg. ‘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 (sic) is of the utmost importance.’
The book chronicles JDC from its inception in 1914 when a group of philanthropists got 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, the temporary vehicle they set up, continued and expanded its efforts around the world. During the buildup to World War II, JDC helped relocate Jewish refugees in places as far and wide as Shanghai, China; La Paz, Bolivia; Kobe, Japan; and Sosua, The Dominican Republic — saving them from Nazi persecution.
JDC became critical in rehabilitating and resettling survivors of the Holocaust after their liberation. ‘I LIVE REQUIRE HELP,’ wrote Luba Mizne in a poignant telegram sent to JDC’s office in New York immediately after her liberation in Warsaw — a telegram that inspired the name of the book.
The book’s narrative then visits the challenges facing Jewish communities in North Africa and the Middle East and touches on the unsolved murder mystery of JDC employee Charles Jordan in Prague at the height of the Cold War, before leading to the present and JDC’s ongoing work helping the neediest segments of society in Israel, Tunisia, Cuba and Russia, among others.
was generously underwritten by Jerome and Linda Spitzer of New York. The book is available for purchase at for $29.95.
Now celebrating its 100th year, JDC remains the essential Jewish international humanitarian organization, putting into action the precept that all Jews are responsible for one another and for all humankind. The organization’s ten decades of rescue, poverty alleviation, Jewish community development, leadership training and cultivation, social innovation, and disaster relief work has benefitted millions of people and transformed countless lives in Israel and more than 90 countries since its founding in 1914 at the outset of WW1.