Children outside a Public Soup Kitchen in Rowne, Poland


This photograph shows a group of poor Jewish children, barefoot and holding their pots, waiting to receive food at a soup kitchen in Rowne, Poland (present-day Rovno or Rivne, Ukraine). Even after the destruction and dislocation of World War I came to an end, the situation for Jews in Eastern Europe remained bleak. Civil war in Russia and the Russo-Polish War of 1919‒20 caused further hardship; for Jews, there was additional danger from numerous pogroms. Famine and disease were widespread and the economy was in ruins. Children were especially vulnerable, with several hundred thousand orphaned. 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 relief organization, leveraged its resources by working with local and regional groups to help provide food, clothing, medical care, and education to the needy. The photograph is by Max J. Colton, a physician who was part of the first JDC medical team. Colton took this photograph and others to document the work of the medical unit and the communities in which it worked. The JDC was founded by American Jews in New York City to help destitute Jews in Europe and Palestine affected by World War I. It has operated as a global humanitarian organization in more than 90 countries since 1914. 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.

Last updated: May 20, 2016