JDC in Russia
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) is the world’s largest Jewish humanitarian organization.
JDC came to Russia immediately after its formation in 1914. Initially, it remitted money to the victims of the World War I. Later, it provided relief to Jews during the Russian Civil War.
When the Civil War was over, JDC helped Jews of Russia and Ukraine to get back to normal life. JDC opened soup kitchens, hospitals and vocational training schools. Agro-Joint built kolkhozes for Soviet Jews and supplied them with agricultural equipment, breeding stock and housing.
In the course of its existence, Agro-Joint assisted more than 150,000 Jews. It established or developed more than 250 settlements and spent 16 million USD for this purpose.
The Agro-Joint activity in Soviet Union was terminated in 1937. Despite its official policy of neutrality and non-intervention in government affairs, JDC lost the right to help Jews in the Soviet Union.
However, during the World War II JDC was able to reach an agreement about provision of food, clothing and other goods to Soviet Union. JDC started a campaign to raise funds for one thousand ambulances for the Soviet Army. Money raised by JDC was also used to purchase warplanes and tanks. Two ships loaded with clothes, medicines and food stuffs were sent to USSR.
After the war, in 1946-1947 JDC sent significant amounts of penicillin and medical equipment to Soviet hospitals and undertook to look after Holocaust survivors in DP camps.
During the post-war recovery period between 1945 and 1952, JDC spent 342 million USD for the relief purposes. More than 420,000 people in Europe, including numerous Holocaust survivors, received some sort of aid from JDC. Among other things, it included assistance in repatriation and emigration of Polish and Romanian Jews from USSR and their resettlement in other countries.
In the early 1980s JDC managed to gain the right to work openly in Eastern Europe. This time, it not just provided welfare services but was engaged in community building as well. JDC did everything possible to help the Soviet Refuseniks, who were not allowed to leave the country but at the same time were deprived of an ability to earn their living.
JDC officially returned to the Soviet Union in 1989 after 50 year absence. The collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in social disaster for its population. JDC created a network of welfare centers for the elderly called “Heseds”. With its main goal – community building – in mind, JDC also established Jewish community centers, libraries, children’s and youth camps.
Ever since then JDC’s work in Russia has been conducted in four main areas: