Jewish War Orphans Arrive in the United States


This photograph from 1921 shows a group of children orphaned as a result of World War I, newly arrived in New York harbor and about to begin a new life, posing with American flags. The war brought devastation to communities across Europe, leaving behind needy populations, including hundreds of thousands of orphans. In Central and Eastern Europe, the collapse of empires and onset of revolution prolonged the disorder, famine, and disease that began during the war. For Jews, there was the added danger of pogroms. 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), founded in 1914 to provide relief during the war, continued its work in Poland and neighboring regions after the war. In 1920 it created the War Orphans Bureau, which played a crucial role in facilitating the emigration of Jewish children from Eastern Europe to the United States and elsewhere. The image 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. The JDC has provided food, clothing, medicine, child care, job training, and refugee assistance in more than 90 countries since 1914.

Last updated: March 4, 2016