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The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC or Joint) is a worldwide Jewish relief organization. It was established in 1914 and is active in more than 70 countries.

JDC works to preserve and enhance the vitality of Jewish community life around the world. Wherever Jewish lives are under imminent threat due to poverty, persecution, natural disaster, or war, JDC responds through an array of social and community assistance programs that relieve suffering and foster long-term development and self-sustainability. JDC is non-political, and has extends its reach beyond the Jewish community. It has provided well over $20 million in non-sectarian disaster relief and development assistance to non-Jewish communities in the last few years alone.


JDC is headquartered in New York Citymarker, where it supervises the distribution of funds largely contributed by partner Jewish charities and individuals throughout North America. JDC is the largest, most critical channel of humanitarian aid from the North American Jewish community to at-risk Jews overseas.

These include more than a quarter million impoverished Jews living in the former Soviet Unionmarker and Central and Eastern Europe, where JDC provides a lifeline of food, medicine, home care, and other critical assistance to elderly Jews and children in need. Meanwhile, JDC enables small but vital Jewish populations in Latin American, African, and Asian countries to maintain essential social services and ensure a Jewish future for their youth. And in Israelmarker, JDC regularly responds to crisis-related needs while helping to improve services to the elderly, children and youth, new immigrants, the disabled, and other vulnerable populations.

JDC’s focus is not limited to the humanitarian needs of Jews alone. In the spirit of tikkun olam, a Hebrew phrase referring to the moral responsibility to repair the world and alleviate suffering, the group recently devoted resources and expertise to humanitarian crises both natural (such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunamimarker and the Myanmar cyclone of 2008) and manmade (such as the genocide in Darfur, the escalating violence in Georgiamarker).

These and other contemporary JDC efforts continue a legacy of ambitious, innovative, boldly realized humanitarian action that dates back nearly a century:

  • When millions of Jews in Eastern Europe and Palestine faced starvation in the chaotic wake of the First World War, JDC fed the hungry, provided medical care to the ailing, and supported programs to help stabilize the region’s fragile economy.

  • With the rise of Hitler’s Nazi regime, JDC supported heroic efforts that enabled 110,000 Jews to leave Germany prior to 1939 and daringly hastened the escape of even more Jews to Allied territory throughout the length of the war.

  • In the aftermath of the Holocaust and on through to the establishment of the state of Israel, JDC provided critical support for tens of thousands of Jews as they made the difficult transition from refugee status to citizenship—the backbone of a fledgling state.

  • When the threat of anti-Semitism jeopardized the survival of Ethiopian Jews in the latter part of the 20th century, JDC played a central role in Operation Solomon, which airlifted more than 14,000 Jews to Israel in just 36 hours.

Since JDC’s founding, the number of people aided by the organization has reached into the millions. While the full extent of the organization’s historic and contemporary impact is nearly impossible to measure, there can be no doubt that the “Joint”—under the banner of “Rescue, Relief, Renewal, and Israel”—has assumed a leading role in the preservation of Jewish life and culture worldwide.

JDC envisions a world in which Jewish communities—large and small—are vital, healthy, and self-sustaining. Ideally, members of every Jewish community should see themselves as not only connected to all other Jewish communities, but deeply vested in their safety and progress. JDC fulfills its mission on four fronts:

  • Rescue of Jews at risk. JDC’s expertise is crisis response. When and where catastrophe engulfs Jews outside North America, JDC acts, working with local partner agencies to address immediate needs and, if necessary, remove Jews from harm’s way.

  • Relief for Jews in need. An estimated 10 percent of the Jewish population living outside of North America and Israel live in poverty, often brought on or made worse by political violence, natural disaster, or other crisis. In addition to providing emergency aid, JDC support builds the capacity of local agencies to sustain and enhance quality of life for struggling communities.

  • Renewal of Jewish community life. Historically, when laws have failed or been ignored, or when the liberties of Jewish citizens have been undermined by a government’s failure to protect them, Jewish tradition and identify have suffered. JDC works to ensure that Jewish communities—however small or remote—have the opportunity to live in keeping with their cultural traditions.

  • Israel. JDC works in partnership with the Israeli government and other local organizations to improve the lives of the most vulnerable members of society, which include the elderly, immigrants that struggle to integrate, children at risk, the disabled, and those who are chronically outside the workforce. In 2007, the JDC was awarded the Israel Prize for its lifetime achievements and special conribution to society and the State of Israel .

History of JDC

By 1914, approximately 100,000 Jews had settled in Palestine, then under Ottoman rule. The settlement—the Yishuv—was largely made up of Jews that had emigrated from Europe and were largely dependent on sources outside Palestine for their income. The outbreak of World War I destroyed those channels, leaving the community isolated and destitute. With disaster looming, the Yishuv’s leaders appealed to Henry Morgenthau, Sr., then U.S. ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. Moved and appalled by the misery he witnessed, Morgenthau sent an urgent cable to New York-based Jewish philanthropist Jacob Schiff, appealing to the American Jewish community for assistance. Dated August 31, 1914, the Western Union telegram read, in part:


The plea found concerned ears in the U.S. In a month, $50,000 (the equivalent of $1 million in the year 2000) was raised through the efforts of what was intended to be an ad hoc and temporary collective of three existing religious and secular Jewish organizations: the American Jewish Relief Committee, the Central Committee for the Relief of Jews Suffering Through the War, and People’s Relief Committee. JDC was formally established to ensure that relief funds that reached Palestinian Jews were distributed effectively.

The work of the early JDC in Palestine did not end with emergency relief. The organization also sent funds to establish desperately needed institutions, such as orphanages, vocational schools, and facilities for the deaf and blind. Even so, members of JDC regarded the agency as a temporary effort that would cease operations once the relief it provided was no longer required. As the 20th Century unfolded, however, the challenges facing the Jewish people would only grow larger and more pressing.


World War I plunged Eastern Europe into chaos and subjected Jewish communities across the region to intense poverty, famine, and inflamed anti-Semitism. The Russian Revolution and other subsequent conflicts fanned the flames further, and pleas for JDC’s humanitarian intervention increased. JDC responded, always looking for opportunities to go beyond emergency food and medical relief to help establish self-sustainable Jewish life.

One innovation was the establishment of loan kassas, cooperative credit institutions that issued low interest loans to Jewish craftsmen and small business owners. From 1924 until 1938, the capital from kassa loans help revitalize villages and towns throughout Eastern Europe.

Not in the new Soviet Unionmarker, however. The communist leadership outlawed businesses upon which Jews were largely dependent, forcing families into poverty. In 1924, the JDC had helped devise a promising program response to the situation in the Soviet Union. It was called the Agro-Joint.

With the support of the Soviet government, JDC pushed forward with this bold initiative to settle so-called “nonproductive” Jews as farmers on vast agricultural settlements in Ukrainemarker, Belarusmarker, and the Crimeamarker. A special public organisation, the Society for Settling Toiling Jews on the Land, or OZET, was established in the Soviet Union for this purpose; it functioned from 1925 to 1938. There was also a special government committee set up, called Komzet. Its function was to contribute and distribute the land for the Jewish collective farms, and to work jointly with OZET. By 1938, some 70,000 Jews had been resettled.

The success of the Agro-Joint initiative would turn tragic just two years later. The Stalin government, having grown increasingly hostile to foreign organizations, arrested and subsequently executed 17 Agro-Joint staff members. By 1941, all the settlers who had not already fled were killed by the Nazis.

The Holocaust

European Jewry was pushed to the brink of annihilation by Nazi Germany. The severity of the crisis put new, unprecedented demands on the American Jewish community and JDC to respond. The weight of the task was compounded by the wartime reality that JDC could no longer operate legally in those nations where Jews were in the greatest peril. From the outbreak of World War II through 1944, JDC made it possible for more than 81,000 Jews to emigrate out of Nazi-occupied Europe to safety.

  • Before the War. Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 was followed closely by passage of Germany’s Nuremberg Laws, a set of onerous restrictions that stripped Jews of their rights and livelihoods. JDC’s support became critical. Channeling funds through local Jewish relief organizations, JDC subsidized medical care, schools, vocational training, welfare programs, and early emigration efforts. JDC support would eventually be extended to Jewish communities in Nazi-annexed Austriamarker and occupied Czechoslovakiamarker. It wasn’t long before the escalation of Hitler’s persecution of the Jews made emigration aid JDC’s priority. The group provided emergency aid for stranded refugees; covered travel expenses and landing fees; and secured travel accommodations and all-important visas for countries of refuge. By the end of 1939, JDC-supported organizations had helped some 110,000 Jews emigrate from Germany—30,000 in 1939 alone.

  • Securing Safe Havens. By 1940, JDC was helping refugees in transit in more than 40 countries. The goal was to provide refugees life-sustaining aid while trying to secure permanent refuge for them in the United States, Palestine, and Latin America. A Jewish agricultural settlement was founded with JDC funding in Sosuamarker, in the Dominican Republicmarker. Another JDC operation was the 1939 cross-Atlantic passage of the SS St. Louis. With some 900 German Jewish refugees onboard, the St. Louis made its way to Cubamarker, only to be denied entry into the country. JDC’s round-the-clock negotiations opened European doors to the passengers, saving many, although some would eventually perish as Germany advanced into formerly “safe” countries. The episode was dramatized in the 1975 feature film, Voyage of the Damned.

  • The Outbreak of War: JDC Becomes a Clandestine Organization. JDC continued its efforts with the outbreak of World War II, opening shelters and soup kitchens for thousands of Jewish refugees in Polandmarker, aiding some 600,000 in 1940. It also subsidized hospitals, child care centers, and educational and cultural programs. Even Passover supplies were shipped in. With U.S. entry into the war following Pearl Harbormarker, JDC had to drastically shift gears. No longer permitted to operate legally in enemy countries, JDC representatives exploited a variety of international connections to channel aid to Jews living in desperate conditions under the shroud of Nazism. Wartime headquarters was set up in Lisbon, Portugalmarker. From there, JDC chartered ships and funded rescue missions that successfully moved thousands of refugees out of harm’s way. Some made it to Shanghai, Chinamarker, where JDC sponsored a relief program for 15,000 refugees from Central and Eastern Europe. In Europe, JDC directed funds to support 7,000 Jewish children in hiding and helped more than 1,000 more emigrate to Switzerlandmarker and Spainmarker. JDC also smuggled aid to Jewish prisoners in labor camps and helped finance the Polish Jewish underground in preparations for the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto revolt.

Rescue of survivors

Allied victory offered no guarantee that the tens of thousands of newly liberated Jews would survive to enjoy the fruits of freedom. To stave off mass starvation, JDC marshaled its resources, instituting an ambitious purchasing and shipping program to provide urgent necessities for Holocaust survivors facing critical local shortages. More than 227 million pounds of food, medicine, clothing, and other supplies were shipped to Europe from U.S. ports.

By late 1945, 75,000 Jewish survivors of the Nazi horrors had crowded into hastily set up displaced persons (DP) camps throughout Germany, Austria, and Italymarker. Conditions were abominable. Earl Harrison, dean of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, asked Joseph Schwartz, JDC’s European director, to accompany him on his official tour of the camps. His landmark report called for separate Jewish camps and for United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) participation in administering them—with JDC’s help. In response, Schwartz virtually re-created JDC, putting together a field organization that covered Europe and later North Africa and designing a more proactive operational strategy.

Supplementing the relief supplied by the army, by UNRRA, and by UNRRA’s successor agency—the International Refugee Organization—JDC distributed emergency aid, but also fed the educational and cultural needs of the displaced, providing typewriters, books, Torah scrolls, ritual articles, and holiday provisions. JDC funds were directed at restoring a sense of community and normalcy in the camps with new medical facilities, schools, synagogues, and cultural activities.

Over the next two years, the influx of refugees from all over Central and Eastern Europe would more than triple the number of Jews in the DP camps. Their number included Polish Jews who had returned from their wartime refuge in the Soviet Union only to flee once again (westward, this time) from renewed anti-Semitism and the July 1946 Kielce pogrom.

At the same time, JDC was helping sustain tens of thousands of Jews who remained in Eastern Europe, as well as thousands of others living in the West outside the DP camps in Jewish communities also receiving reconstruction assistance from JDC. In 1946, an estimated 120,000 Jews in Hungarymarker, 65,000 in Poland, and more than half of Romaniamarker’s 380,000 Jews, depended on JDC for food and other basic needs. By 1947, JDC was supporting 380 medical facilities across the continent, and some 137,000 Jewish children were receiving some form of JDC aid.

Falling victim to Cold War tensions, JDC was expelled from Romania, Poland, and Bulgariamarker in 1949, from Czechoslovakia in 1950, and from Hungary in 1953.

Resettlement in Israel

The time came for JDC to shift its focus in Europe from emergency relief to long-term rehabilitation, and a large part of its evolving mission involved preparing the Jewish refuge population for new lives in Palestine, soon to be the Jewish state of Israel. Vocational training and hachsharot (agricultural training) centers were established for this very purpose.

However, the goal of resettlement carried its own hurdles. Since before the war, Palestine had been under control of Great Britainmarker, which severely restricted the immigration of Europe’s Jewish refugees. Clandestine immigration went on in spite of the blockades, largely because of the work of Bricha and Aliyah Bet, two organized movements partially financed and supplied by JDC. When the British began interning illegal Jewish immigrants in detention camps on Cyprusmarker, JDC was there to furnish medical, educational, and social services for the detainees.

Britain’s eventual withdrawal from Palestine set the stage for the May 15, 1948, birth of the State of Israel, which quickly drew waves of Jews not only from Europe, but from across the Arab world. North Africa became an especially dangerous place for Jews following World War II. The 1948 War of Independence in Palestine set off a wave of nationalist fervor in the region leading to anti-Jewish riots in Adenmarker, Moroccomarker, and Tripolimarker. Jews in Libyamarker suffered a devastating pogrom in 1945. Nearly the entire population—31,000 Jews—would immigrate to Israel within a few short years. One of the most remarkable episodes of this period in JDC history was Operation Magic Carpet, the June 1948 airlift of 50,000 Yemenitemarker Jews to Israel. Thousands more Iraqimarker and Kurdish Jews were transported through Operation Ezra, also funded by JDC.

In all, more than 300,000 Jews left North Africa for Israel.

The influx was so massive—and the capacity of the newborn nation to provide for its burgeoning citizenry so limited—that the dream of statehood could have died before it had ever really taken root. Among the new arrivals were 100,000 veterans of Europe’s DP camps, less than half of them able-bodied adults. The remainder included the aged, sick, or disabled survivors of concentration camps. Tuberculosis was rampant.

Mindful of JDC’s emergency aid work prior to and during World War II, the Israeli government in late 1949 invited the organization to join with the Jewish Agency for Israel to confront these challenges. The outcome was MALBEN—a Hebrew acronym for Organization for the Care of Handicapped Immigrants.

Over the next few years, MALBEN rushed to convert former British army barracks and any other available building into hundreds of hospitals, homes for the aged, TB sanitariums, sheltered workshops, and rehabilitation centers. MALBEN also funded the training of nurses and rehabilitation workers.

By 1951, JDC assumed full responsibility for MALBEN. Its many rehabilitation programs opened new worlds to the disadvantaged, enabling them to contribute to the building of the new country. At the same time, Israel’s local and national government agencies were building capacity, and by the end of the decade, JDC was able to chart a fresh course. With the need for emergency aid receding, JDC pushed forward with more long-term community-based programs aimed at Israel’s most vulnerable citizens. In the coming years, JDC would become a social catalyst by encouraging and guiding collaborations between the Israeli government and private agencies to identify, evaluate, and address unmet needs in Israeli society.

Social welfare

As its record of accomplishment in Israel makes clear, JDC helped Israel develop social welfare methods and policy, with many of its programs having served as models for government and non-governmental agencies around the world. In the 1950s, institutional care for the aged was replaced whenever practicable with JDC initiatives that enabled older people to live at home in their communities. The Ministry of Health was established in collaboration with the Psychiatric Trust Fund to develop modern, integrated mental health services and to train qualified staff. The Paul Baerwald School of Social Work, first created by JDC in France to train professionals working with refugees from many diverse cultures, was reestablished at the Hebrew University of Jerusalemmarker to professionalize social services.

JDC’s social work innovations continued into the 1960s with the founding of Israel’s first Child Development and Assessment Center, which put into practice the then-emerging idea that early detection and treatment optimize outcomes for children with disabilities. A success, Child Development Centers soon spread across the country.

JDC during this period also worked closely with Israeli voluntary agencies that served children with physical and mental disabilities, helping them set up therapy programs, kindergartens, day centers, counseling services for parents, and summer camps. It also advised these organizations on fundraising strategies to help them become financially independent.

In 1969, JDC and the government of Israel inaugurated ESHEL—the Association for the Planning and Development of Services for the Aged—to extend a network of coordinated local, regional, and national services to underserved elderly. Still active today, ESHEL is credited with improving the quality of life of Israel’s seniors.

With these and other like-minded projects, JDC underwent an important transition with regard to its role in Israel. Initially engaged by the government to provide emergency aid to a traumatized and impoverished population of former refugees, JDC had redirected its efforts toward advising and subsidizing a broad spectrum of community based public and volunteer service providers. The evolution was a reflection of a new reality: Israel had come into its own as a nation and had successfully achieved an infrastructure with the capacity to address the needs of its most vulnerable citizens.

By the end of 1975, JDC had transferred its MALBEN facilities to the government and divested itself of all direct services.

Diaspora work

The 1980s and ‘90s saw JDC expand both its reach and the scope of its mission. Under the banner of “Rescue, Relief, and Renewal,” the organization responded to the challenges that faced Jewish communities around the world, its emphasis on building the capacity of local partners to be self-sustaining.

The thawing of the Cold War and subsequent break up of the Soviet Union yielded a formal invitation from Gorbachev for JDC’s return to the region in 1989; 50 years after Stalin brutally expelled the organization, killing several JDC members in the process. The former Soviet Union and its largely isolated and destitute community of elderly Jewish populations quickly became—and remain—the organization’s priority. A growing network of Heseds, or welfare centers, that JDC helped establish in local communities provided welfare assistance to a peak caseload of 250,000 elderly Jews. Today that network is still serving 168,000 of the world’s poorest Jews in the former Soviet Union (December 2008).

JDC has also been instrumental in the rescue of Jews fleeing famine, violence, and other dangers around the world. The saga of Ethiopiamarker’s Jews was perhaps the most dramatic, culminating in Operation Solomon, the massive 36-hour airlift of 14,000 Jews from Addis Ababamarker to Israel on May 24 and 25, 1991, just as the city was about to come under rebel attack. JDC assisted in the negotiation and planning of that rescue effort, which came on the heels of the comprehensive health and welfare program it had been operating for the thousands of Jews who had gathered in Addis Ababa in preparation for the departure.

Equally compelling were the 11 rescue convoys that JDC operated from war-ravaged Sarajevomarker during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker. The convoys succeeded in transporting 2,300 Serbs, Croats, Muslims, and Jews to safety in other parts of the former Yugoslavia and beyond. JDC also supported the Sarajevo Jewish community’s non-sectarian relief efforts in that besieged city, and helped the Belgrade community assist the many Jews affected by Serbia’s economic difficulties as UN-mandated trade sanctions took a growing toll.

Wherever JDC has become active, emergency aid has gone hand-in-hand with local institution-building for the long term. In Indiamarker, home to an indigenous Bene Israel community, JDC in the 1960s channeled funding to the rehabilitation of local schools and included support for food programs and capital upgrades. It also helped underwrite tuition for teachers and student leaders to study in Israel. In Latin America, where Jews fleeing the Nazis had settled decades earlier (with JDC’s assistance), the organization in the late ’80s created Leatid, a program that trains local lay and professional Jewish leaders to ensure that communities are self-sustaining.

The formalization of JDC’s non-sectarian work under its International Development Program in 1986 marked another milestone. While JDC had always offered assistance to non-Jews in crisis since the organization’s founding in 1914, the formation of the new program was done to ensure a unified Jewish response to global disasters—both natural and manmade—on behalf of U.S. and foreign Jewish agencies. Since then, JDC relief and recovery efforts have assisted tens of thousands of people left vulnerable in the wake of the mid-90s civil war in Rwandamarker, the Kosovomarker refugee crisis, the devastating 1999 earthquake in Turkey, and the 2004 tsunami in South Asia. As in its Jewish-specific projects, JDC’s non-sectarian work includes both emergency disaster relief and the building of local institutional capacity to ensure that people at risk continue to be served long after the disaster has passed.

JDC today


JDC has operated in 85 countries at one time or another in the course of its 95-year history. As of early 2009, JDC is conducting projects in 71 countries, including Argentina, Croatia, Ethiopia, Poland, Morocco, Cuba, and throughout the former Soviet Union. JDC also maintains a focus on Israel and has been a humanitarian presence in the Middle East since its founding in 1914.


In its mission to support communities in developing their own resources in ways that are both culturally sensitive and organic, JDC partners with local organizations in creating and implementing all JDC projects worldwide. These partnerships enable JDC to most effectively address the unique needs of the communities where it operates and to build the capacity of all of the institutions, professionals, and volunteers so they become equipped with the skills needed to serve their own communities.

Programs and priorities

Relief, Rescue, Renewal –Aiding Jewry Worldwide is JDC’s mission to alleviate suffering and enhance the lives of Jews has taken it across geographic, cultural, and political borders on five continents. Currently, the regions drawing the greatest amount of JDC effort include the following:

  • The Former Soviet Union. The upheaval caused by the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 brought both crisis and opportunity to Jews living there. All religions and minorities suffered under communism, and so fractured communities of Jews were suddenly confronted with a collapsed infrastructure and an uncertain future, but also the hope that it might now be possible to assert and reclaim a heritage long denied them. JDC, which had only recently begun to reestablish a presence in the region after being violently expelled by Stalin in 1938, poured its resources into the relief, rescue, and restoration of Jewish populations fighting for survival. Today, JDC provides food, medical care, home care, and winter relief to 168,000 elderly Jews, largely through 175 Hesed welfare centers throughout the region. JDC also provides nutritional, medical, and other assistance to 25,000 children at risk and their families. In addition to life-sustaining aid, JDC helps Jews reclaim their heritage and build vibrant self-sustaining Jewish communities through Jewish Community Centers, libraries, Hillel youth centers, family retreats, Jewish education, and local leadership development.

  • Central and Eastern Europe. As in the former Soviet Union, social and economic shifts threaten the stability of the many diverse Jewish communities throughout Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic countries. JDC’s social welfare and community development approaches are as varied as the communities they assist. JDC relief programs for Holocaust survivors reach 26,000 elderly, while the organization works with local partners to ensure that impoverished children’s basic needs are met. The overarching goal is self-sustainability and shifting welfare responsibilities to local entities. To achieve this, JDC provides consultation to communities in the areas of leadership training, strategic planning, fundraising, property management, and networking, helping local professionals to develop the skills to serve the larger community.

  • Africa and Asia. It terms of sheer numbers, Jewish communities in Africa and the Far East range from sizable (upwards of 25,000 in Turkeymarker) to small (as of this writing, Algeriamarker is home to five people of Jewish heritage). Jewish populations on both continents are diminishing, either through emigration or because the elderly are all that remain. But wherever there is a Jew and a desire to maintain the trappings and traditions of Jewish life, JDC strives to ensure that basic needs are met and Jewish institutions continue. JDC supports local Jewish education and training efforts and puts special emphasis on international programs that bridge isolated Jewish populations with Jews all over the world.

  • The Americas. There are nearly a quarter million Jews in Argentinamarker, more than in any other nation in the Western hemisphere after the United States. That number included a vibrant, emerging middle class. But much of that progress was thrown in turmoil by a nationwide financial crisis in 2001 that plunged thousands into economic despair and entrenched the pull of poverty for those already living in it. JDC responded, providing critical assistance to 36,000 Argentine Jews. Since then, JDC has begun to cede its assistance role to its local partners while continuing to ensure that basic food and medical needs of the most vulnerable citizens are met.

  • Israel. JDC’s relationship with Israel is unique. While the organization works with the cooperation of the governments of other nations where it has a presence, with Israel the relationship is more of a direct partnership. Working together, JDC and the Israeli government strengthen the capacity of local agencies to address the immediate and long-term needs of the elderly, at-risk youth, the chronically under employed, and new immigrants. JDC assists in building and maintaining Israel’s social strengths—including management of the public sector, governance and management of nonprofit organizations, volunteerism, and philanthropy—so that the society as a whole is more able to meet its own needs. JDC also helps those Jews and non-Jews living under fire in southern Israel.

JDC institutions

In the course of its long history, JDC has helped create lasting institutions that do much of the research and policy development that inform JDC programs and advance its goals. In fact, the work of these institutions is highly regarded well beyond the Jewish community and can arguably be said to have raised the bar on social service delivery, globally.

Public policy making

The Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute, a partnership between the JDC, the Israeli government, and the Inez Myers Foundation, was established in 1974. Its role is to conduct applied social research on the scope and causes of social needs—specifically those related to aging, health policy, children and youth, people with disabilities, and new immigrants—and assesses various approaches to addressing them. The data produced by researchers has proven a powerful tool for Israel’s policy makers and social service practitioners. Among other examples, MJB researchers:

  • Revealed the dramatic increase in the number of Israel’s disabled elderly and helped develop strategies to expand community services for them.

  • Helped to expand and improve national education policy for Ethiopian children in the 1990s, which resulted in improved high school achievements and greater participation in higher education.

  • Facilitated the implementation of Israel’s Special Education Law, which markedly expanded services for disabled children in the 1990s.

  • Helped to introduce and effectively implement the National Health Insurance Law (1995), which provides universal and more equitable coverage to all of Israel's citizens.

Other JDC-affiliated institutions include The Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel, an independent think tank that analyzes and develops social policy alternatives, and the recently established JDC International Centre for Community Development, which supports JDC’s efforts worldwide to enhance and support Jewish communal life.


Leadership training is a JDC core value. To that end, JDC founded Leatid, the European center for Jewish leadership. The Leatid training program, with its focus on management and community planning, helps expand the pool of outstanding professional Jewish men and women committed to the continued well being of their communities. Jewish leaders from all parts of Europe have taken part in Leatid training seminars, including most of the current presidents of European Jewish communities, executive directors, key board members and rabbis. Indeed, those leaders who aren’t Leatid alumnus almost certainly underwent Buncher Community Leadership Training, another JDC effort in partnership with the Buncher Family Foundation and the United Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh. Since its start in 1989, Buncher Leadership Training has conducted seminars in the former Soviet Union, the Baltic States, Poland, Germany, Former Yugoslavia, Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria as well as India and Latin America.

Finally, the Moscow NGO Management School, founded by JDC in 2005, effectively strengthens the Russian nonprofit sector by providing professional training to managers of nonprofit organizations. The curriculum is crafted to provide opportunities for nonprofit leaders to gain skills to help their organizations succeed.

Disaster relief

JDC’s role as a non-sectarian disaster relief agency is motivated by the spirit of tikkun olam, the traditional moral obligation of Jews to improve conditions for the entire human family. Working with local partners, JDC has provided emergency aid and long-term development assistance to communities devastated by such catastrophic events as the Kashmir earthquake in 2005, and the South Asia tsunami in 2004. More recent relief efforts include:

  • 2008 Pakistan earthquakemarker. On October 29, 2008, a 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck southwest Pakistan, northeast of the provincial capital Quetta. JDC collected funds to directly assist victims of the quake and partnered with the International Blue Crescent to deliver much-need food, bedding, hygiene kits, and warm clothing to those hardest hit.

  • Russia-Georgia conflict. Following the eruption of hostilities on August 7, 2008, JDC partnered with the Georgian Red Cross and MASHAV, the Center for International Development of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to coordinate the shipment and deployment of critical medical supplies and other emergency assistance. JDC continues to assess the needs of the region and develop a strategy for long-term assistance to those displaced by the conflict.

  • 2008 China earthquakemarker. China’s worst earthquake in more than 30 years devastated Sichuanmarker and eight additional provinces on May 12, 2008, killing more than 70,000 people and leaving 1.39 million homeless. JDC is supporting a partnership between The All China Federation of Supply and Marketing Cooperatives (ACFSMC) and the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development (NISPED) that is leading an ambitious reconstruction effort in the region.

  • 2008 Myanmar cyclone. JDC was among the first and only aid organizations to enter Myanmarmarker’s Irrawaddy Delta following Cyclone Nargis, which struck on May 2, 2008. The disaster affected an estimated 2.4 million people. JDC coordinated with other nongovernmental organizations to immediately provide water, food, and medical supplies and is now supporting efforts to rebuild schools, homes, and embankments destroyed by the cyclone.



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