Hungry People Greet an American Relief Worker in Dachowa, Poland

This photograph, taken by an American aid worker on an inspection tour of Poland in 1921, shows adults and children in Dachowa awaiting relief. In 1918‒19, Jews in Poland lived through a reign of terror. While the country was at war with its neighbors to the east and the south, there were anti-Jewish pogroms and other attacks. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), a humanitarian organization formed at the beginning of World War I, conducted relief activities for the endangered Jewish population. After the war, the JDC provided food to Jews in Polish towns and villages; dispatched delegations of doctors, public health experts, and social workers; set up soup kitchens; rebuilt hospitals; and opened orphanages. Among the first medical team of JDC representatives was Max Colton, a physician, who took this photograph and others to document the work of the field unit and the communities where it worked. 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.

Jewish War Orphans in Dubno, Poland

The two children in this photograph, dressed in rags, are orphans in Dubno, Poland (present-day Ukraine). The devastation of World War I and the subsequent Russo-Polish War of 1919‒20 resulted in tens of thousands of orphaned Jewish children in Poland. These orphans could find shelter in numerous child care facilities operated by the Centralne Towarzystwo Opieki nad Sierotami (CENTOS—Federation of Associations for Orphans and Abandoned Children), an umbrella organization embracing more than 200 Jewish orphanages, boarding schools, and other educational facilities. CENTOS was funded primarily by local Jewish communities and by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), which had been formed during World War I to provide wartime relief to Jewish communities, including support for the establishment of Jewish hospitals, child care institutions, and food distribution stations throughout Poland. Since 1914, the JDC has operated as a global humanitarian organization in more than 90 countries. The photograph is from the archives of the JDC, which contain 100,000 photographs, two million documents, film, video, oral histories, and artifacts documenting the organization’s humanitarian work from World War I to the present.

People Await the Opening of a Soup Kitchen in Aleksandrovsk, Ukraine

This photograph shows hungry people, mostly women and children, waiting with their containers for the soup kitchen to open in Aleksandrovsk (present-day Zaporozhye), Ukraine, in 1921. Famine struck the Soviet Union in 1921, one of the consequences of seven years of war. Under the auspices of the American Relief Administration (ARA) established by the United States government, 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), provided food on a nonsectarian basis to millions of starving people in Ukraine, Russia, and Crimea over the course of a year. The JDC was created at the start of World War I by American Jewish groups uniting to provide coordinated relief from privation and suffering for Jews abroad. Since 1914, the JDC has operated as a global humanitarian organization, providing food, clothing, medicine, child care, job training, and refugee assistance in over 90 countries. The JDC Archives contain photographs, documents, film, video, oral histories and artifacts documenting the organization’s work.

Favus Patients and Their Caregivers in a Treatment Center Isolation Ward in Vilna, Lithuania

In the aftermath of World War I, poverty caused by wartime destruction and dislocation bred disease in Europe. The children in this photograph, taken in Vilna, Poland (present-day Vilnius, Lithuania) in 1921, have their heads wrapped; they are being treated for favus, a fungal skin disease that affects the scalp. The physician (standing, rear right) treating the children has been identified as Mahmud Kajabi. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), a humanitarian organization created at the start of World War I by American Jewish groups to provide wartime relief to Jewish communities, continued its work after the war, including support for the establishment of Jewish hospitals, child care institutions, food distribution stations, and other institutions throughout Poland, including this treatment center in Vilna. 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.

Jewish Family Outside Their Temporary Home, Poland

In this photograph, members of a Jewish family that had been forced to flee their town pose outside their temporary home, a crude structure located on the road between Kowel and Rowne, Poland (present-day Kovel and Rovne or Rivne, Ukraine). In the years immediately following World War I, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) sent field representatives to Poland. They not only worked to provide relief and rehabilitation to destitute Jews but also investigated local conditions and needs in order to plan future aid efforts, which included support for existing community organizations and the establishment of new ones. Among the first medical team of JDC representatives was Max Colton, a physician, who took this photograph as part of his documentation of the work of the medical unit and the communities where it worked. The JDC was founded by American Jews in New York City to help destitute Jews in Europe and Palestine impacted by World War I. Since 1914, the JDC has operated as a global humanitarian organization, providing food, clothing, medicine, child care, job training, and refugee assistance in more than 90 countries. The JDC Archives contain photographs, documents, film, video, oral histories, and artifacts documenting the organization’s work.

Refugees Returning to Poland from Russia

In the early years of World War I, many Jews living in the disputed territories of Poland were resettled by Russian military authorities in the provinces of Central Russia. In areas where aid was possible, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), a humanitarian organization created at the start of World War I by American Jewish groups, carried on relief activities on behalf of refugees, and later—as citizens of prewar Poland went back home—for the returnees. The displaced received baths, nourishing meals, shoes, clothing, medical treatment, and shelter. The returnees in this photograph were on the road between Rowne (present-day Rovno or Rivne, Ukraine) to Łuck (Lutsk, Ukraine), having traveled for four months from the Volga region of Russia. Among the first medical team of JDC representatives was Max Colton, a physician, who took this photograph and others to document the work of the medical unit and the communities where it worked. 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.

Refugees Passing through Rowne, Poland

This photograph, taken in 1921, shows a group of Jewish refugees in horse-drawn carts traveling through the town of Rowne, Poland (present-day Rovno or  Rivne, Ukraine) as they make their way home. World War I had created a massive population of displaced persons, which then increased with the Russian Revolution and ensuing civil war. Along with the dangers associated with war and revolution, Jews faced the added peril of pogroms. Rowne, a commercial hub with a large Jewish population, had experienced a series of pogroms in 1919, while the town was still part of Ukraine; by 1920 it had been transferred to Poland. The next year, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) sent its first team of medical representatives, including social workers, physicians, and teachers, to Poland. Among them was Max Colton, a physician, who took this photograph and others to document the work of the JDC medical unit and the localities it served. The JDC was founded by American Jews in New York City to help destitute Jews in Europe and Palestine affected by World War I. Since 1914 the JDC has operated as a global humanitarian organization, providing food, clothing, medicine, child care, job training, and refugee assistance in more than 90 countries. The JDC Archives contain photographs, documents, film, video, oral histories, and artifacts documenting the organization’s work.

New Mothers Learn Infant Care at a Hadassah Child Welfare Center, Jerusalem

This photograph shows five new mothers with babies during a child care course provided by a Hadassah nurse in Jerusalem. In 1918‒21, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America (better known as Hadassah), established hospitals, a nursing school, and community health and preventive care programs in British Mandate Palestine. During those years, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), a humanitarian organization, provided $200,000 annually for the work of Hadassah in British Mandate Palestine. 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 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.

Patients Wait in an Infirmary, Jerusalem

This photograph shows a line of patients waiting for treatment in an emergency room run by the Women’s Zionist Organization of America (better known as Hadassah). In 1918‒21, Hadassah established hospitals, a nursing school, and community health and preventive care programs in British Mandate Palestine. During those years, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), a humanitarian organization, provided $200,000 annually for the work of Hadassah in British Mandate Palestine. 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 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.

Waiting for Food outside the Dreyfus Soup Kitchen, Jerusalem

This photograph shows hungry people, many of them children, as they wait for food at the Dreyfus Soup Kitchen in Jerusalem, which served about 900 meals a day in 1921. During and immediately after World War I, needy Jews living in British Mandate Palestine were cut off from their regular sources of support in Europe. Many depended on food relief and other kinds of financial support from American Jews. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), a humanitarian organization organized at the start of World War I to address such pressing needs, financed soup kitchens and other vital forms of support in the Middle East and Europe. 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.