Google Partnership Highlights JDC Archives’ Rich Treasures
October 3, 2017
Visitors to the Google Arts and Culture website, a visionary digital platform created by the Google Cultural Institute (GCI), can now view the iconic August 1914 cablegram that led to JDC’s founding—and brought life-sustaining aid to Jews in Ottoman-ruled Palestine and in Europe following the outbreak of World War I.
They can also see a heartfelt plea sent to JDC 31 years later by a newly liberated Holocaust survivor in Warsaw, confident that her four-word request would bring desperately needed assistance:
“I Live Require Help.”
Both items are part of the JDC Archives page that went live this January on GCI’s website, and can be found at www.google.com/culturalinstitute.
Joining the ranks of world-renowned institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the U.S. National Archives, the British Museum, Russia’s Hermitage Museum, and Israel’s Yad Vashem, JDC is now a full-fledged “partner institute” in this Google initiative, which seeks to “bring the world’s cultural heritage online.”
This new digital platform gives unprecedented visibility to the rich holdings of JDC’s Global Archives—some three miles of text, 100,000 photographs, and 3,500 audio and visual recordings (including oral histories and historic broadcasts and films) that document JDC’s record of activity in over 90 countries from 1914 to the present.
“In significantly expanding our digital presence and becoming part of a family of institutions known the world over for their legendary holdings, we are ensuring that our 100-year-plus effort to rescue those in danger and provide relief for the neediest will gain new attention,” explained Jane Weitzman, who chairs JDC’s Archives Committee.
JDC launched its GCI presence with a two-part, annotated version of its centennial exhibit, which was presented at the New-York Historical Society from June to September 2014, using GCI tools to digitize the selected items.
Through curated, multimedia exhibits like this and others already in the works, the JDC Archives can acquaint people worldwide with JDC’s critical role in cotemporary Jewish history, and the profound impact it continues to have on Jewish life, Jewish lives, and the field of humanitarian assistance.
Online visitors to the JDC Archives page can explore a seamless assemblage of captioned photographs, documents, artifacts, films, and audio recordings. One click connects the viewer to relevant contextual information and links to other items on the Archives website: archives.JDC.org. Additionally, GCI gives its partners the opportunity to engage with their audiences on mobile devices through its free Google Arts and Culture App.
JDC’s current exhibits include heart-rending images and eye-opening documents that may surprise even those well versed in JDC history—like the 1926 letter from John D. Rockefeller conveying an unsolicited $100,000 contribution to JDC’s agricultural resettlement project in the Soviet Union.
Other highlights include a 1921 photo of artist Marc Chagall at a JDC-funded school for orphans in Russia, where he taught art; excerpts from JDC films detailing the plight of European Jews seeking refuge from the Nazis; and a Passover Haggadah distributed by JDC in the DP camps in April 1948, a small but precious part of its massive post-Holocaust assistance program. Created by camp residents on the eve of Israel’s birth, the cover artfully portrays their own yearning to begin life anew in Israel. Or marvel at a pair of eyeglasses held together by string, wire, and rubber bands—the treasured possession of a Soviet Jew who lacked the means to replace them until JDC was able to come to his aid in 1991.
Those who discover a personal connection to JDC’s work through this GCI platform might find this quote from a 1957 “Guide to Overseas Operations” especially meaningful. Written by legendary JDC leader Charles Jordan,
it is equally relevant today:
“This is the miracle of JDC, that it … can work on a global scale dealing with tens of thousands of people and, at the same time, lend a patient ear and a helping hand to the troubles of the individual.”
Images from the JDC Archives in the Google Cultural Institute
TOP Armenian earthquake survivors are airlifted to Israel by JDC for treatment and physical therapy, 1989.
MIDDLE JDC Jewish Service Corps volunteer Andrew Rehfeld leads children in song in Thane, India, 1990.
BOTTOM An Operation Magic Carpet flight brings Yemenite Jews to Israel with JDC’s help, 1949.