Female Shopkeepers Given Aid by the Joint Distribution Committee to Begin Their Businesses


Peddlers’ shops in the war-torn small towns in large swaths of Eastern Europe were ruined by World War I and the Russo-Polish War that followed in 1919‒20. Interest-free small business loans enabled small businesses, such as those of the female merchants in this wire-service photograph, to start over, selling wares along the streets of Brest-Litovsk, Poland (Yiddish, Brisk; present-day Brest, Belarus). The loans were made by the Joint Distribution Committee of American Funds for the Relief of Jewish War Sufferers (later the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, both names abbreviated as the JDC), a humanitarian organization that provided relief during the war and reconstruction support in its aftermath. The JDC was formed in 1914 to send aid, including food, clothing, medicine, funds, and emergency supplies, to the stricken Jews of Europe during the war. The war left in its wake many additional catastrophes—pogroms, epidemics, famine, revolution, and economic ruin—and after the war the JDC continued to play a major role in rebuilding the devastated Jewish communities of Eastern Europe and in sustaining the Jews in Palestine. The photograph is from the archives of the JDC, which contain documents, photographs, film, video, oral histories, and artifacts recording the work of the organization from World War I to the present. Since its beginnings, the JDC has provided aid and social care in more than 90 countries.

Last updated: March 4, 2016