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The Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Communities of North Africa: A Burgeoning Field of New Research

Tue, December 18, 8:30 to 10:00am, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Amphitheater

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


Since its origins in 1914, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC or “Joint”), founded to aid the victims of World War I, has played a significant role in Jewish communities throughout the world. While its humanitarian reach in Europe and the Soviet Union has attracted some scholarly attention, less is known about its work in North Africa. JDC’s work in the region began in the 1930s following Hitler’s rise to power and the arrival on the shores of North Africa of Jewish refugees escaping Nazi Europe to whom it provided assistance via local committees. In the postwar period, JDC became increasingly involved in helping local destitute Jews by setting up an extensive assistance program, which focused on the needs of children, in countries such as Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Algeria. Jewish life in North Africa has been affected by geo-political events related to Israel and the decolonization process. Emigration occurred as a result of each new developments in this area and JDC's assistance continued for those who remained and was extended to those who left.
The papers on this panel are part of a new stream of research that has begun to examine the multi-faceted work of JDC in North Africa. Susan Gilson Miller will investigate how during World War II, with the help and guidance of international organizations such as the Joint, the Moroccan Jewish community was able to deploy new concepts and set up a relief program to respond to the challenges it faced. Danielle Willard-Kyle focuses on the assistance that JDC provided to unaccompanied minors sent by their parents in 1949 from Libya to Italy, who were housed in Italian DP camps. Jessica Hammerman will discuss the role of the JDC in colonial Algeria on the eve of independence. Jane Gerber will serve as respondent; Linda Levi, Director of JDC Global Archives will chair.

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