American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee

I have been getting materials ready to upload from the archives of the American ‘Joint’ – an organisation that we believe contributed around twenty per cent of the funding for the Kitchener camp rescue. I’ve now got all the documents in chronological order – I just need to tidy up the scans a bit further.

Kitchener camp, American Joint Distribution Committee, Postwar mail into zones of occupation in Germany
Kitchener camp, Werner Weissenberg, Letter, American Joint Distribution Committee, Postwar mail into zones of occupation in Germany

See here for information about the JDC, as it is known today. I will be adding the historical materials, which we have been given permission to add to the project, over the next couple of days. You might also like to know that there is a ‘Names Index’ search box for individual records on the JDC website – which I only recently found out about myself:

While getting this material ready, I received a general mail shot from David Schizer, current CEO of the JDC. They probably don’t get many replies to these kinds of emails (!), but I wrote back to say I would put this information into my next post – partly because some families may want to know about the present-day work of the JDC, and partly because I know some Kitchener families wish to support the work of those who supported our fathers and grandfathers.

"I am writing to share with you the remarks I made yesterday in Tel Aviv at the Jewish Federations of North America’s annual General Assembly, one of the Jewish world’s largest gatherings. It was the first time in almost a decade that a JDC CEO has been asked to deliver such an address.

I shared with them my vision for JDC’s mission and how we work together to save Jewish lives and build Jewish life everyday around the world.

I was very fortunate to join an outstanding group of JDC Board Members, global staff, and clients representing us at this premiere gathering and making clear our critical impact in the Jewish world and Israel.

I hope you will share these remarks with your networks to help us spread the word about our work and urge others to join us in our abiding commitment to support Jews and Jewish communities in need.


David Schizer


GA 2018

“Thank you for helping Shlomo, Hanan, and so many others.

I know how challenging it is to run a federation. Remember that your hard work touches thousands of lives.

The theme of the GA is that “we need to talk.” We all know the Jewish community is divided about many things.

But the video you just saw reminds us that we still are united about something fundamental: our commitment to lift the lives of poor people.

This shared commitment is the bedrock of your federation’s partnership with JDC. This partnership is more important than ever.

As Israel’s economy races ahead, too many have been left behind. The groups JDC serves in Israel – children at risk, the unemployed, elderly, and Israelis with disabilities – need your help. They need effective social services.

I know we are not unanimous in supporting every policy of the Israeli government. We don’t need to be.

But as a community, we can all agree that Israel’s most vulnerable citizens deserve to live with hope and dignity.

So JDC partners with the Israeli government to dream up new ways – better ways – to help Israel’s most vulnerable citizens. We test these new ideas in pilot programs.

These pilots offer you unparalleled leverage and impact. Each dollar your federation invests is matched, on average, by two dollars from the Israeli government.

Then, if the pilot succeeds, the government takes over the program, scales it up to run throughout the country, and covers the full cost.

As our approach in Israel shows, at JDC we are guided by our heads, as well as our hearts. We are rigorous and strategic with your money.

JDC uses zero-based budgeting. Just because we ran a program before does not mean we automatically will run it again.

To make a fresh decision every year, we ask three questions about everything we do.

First, are we targeting the right problem?

Second, is our response effective? If not, it’s not the right way to use your money.

Our third question is not asked often enough: Are we the right organization to do the job? If others can do it just as well, we leave it to them.

We go where conditions are bleak. We go where others can’t or won’t go.

So JDC is in Venezuela, where the inflation rate this year is one million percent. The average citizen has lost 24 pounds from hunger.

Although thousands of Jews have left, there are still 5,500 Jews in Venezuela. Through JDC, you ensure that their basic needs are met.

Jewish poverty is also acute in the former Soviet Union. Elderly Jews there are the poorest Jews in the world. They struggle to get by on pensions as low as two dollars per day.

Through JDC, you help almost 100,000 elderly Jews, giving them food, medicine, and home care.

An elderly client in Ukraine recently called JDC “the sunshine in her window.” Along with the Claims Conference, International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, World Jewish Relief, and our other partners, you are bringing light into their lives.

Together, we don’t just save Jewish lives; we also build Jewish life.

Jewish communities once thrived in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. But the Holocaust and decades of communist rule nearly extinguished the spark of Jewish life there. Together, we are lighting the torch again.

For example, with your support, we run a summer camp in Hungary, the Lauder-JDC International Youth Camp at Szarvas. Over the past three decades, Szarvas has inspired over 30,000 children to reconnect with Judaism.

In that part of the world, virtually every Jewish communal leader under 40 went to Szarvas. The Duke of Wellington said that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton. In the same way, the future of Judaism in Eastern Europe is being shaped in the dining hall at Szarvas.

From Bobruisk to Beer Sheva, there is much more for your federation and JDC to do together.

Wherever Jews yearn for comfort, we are there. Wherever Jews long for community, we are there.

Our sacred mission will never change. But tomorrow’s challenges will be different, so we must prepare for whatever lies ahead.

Failure is not an option. But as long as we keep our boots on the ground, and set our sights on the horizon, nothing is impossible.”

With our sincere thanks to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee

Kitchener camp, Werner Weissenberg, Letter, From a surviving cousin liberated from Theresienstadt, Helped by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Berlin, 3 June 1946
Kitchener camp, Werner Weissenberg, Letter, From a surviving cousin liberated from Theresienstadt, Helped by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Berlin, 3 June 1946

Translation extract by Helga Brown BA Dip. Ed. née Steinhardt

Dear Werner

After I sent two letters by mail and one via my sister-in-law yesterday, one day before my birthday, your letter arrived. I was very pleased that you hadn’t forgotten and thank you very much for your congratulations. At least it is a letter of congratulations from a relative. Unfortunately, I was ill on the day, but in spite of that I had many visitors. I am ill quite a lot. I think it is a result of my stay in the concentration camp. We are very busy with our plans for emigration. We want to go to Brazil, where Heinz’s brother is. …

We have a 3-room flat and now and again we are provided with groceries by the Joint and one can exist that way, thank God…