Researchers are invited to submit a proposal for the workshop, “The Activities of ‘the Joint’ in Poland and Neighboring Countries 1945-1989: Reality and Perceptions,” to be held at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw on August 7-9, 2019. This workshop is co-sponsored by the JDC Archives and the POLIN Museum. Other partners include the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University, and the Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies at Columbia University.
Since its origins in 1914, the 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 during the interwar, World War II, and immediate postwar periods has attracted some scholarly attention, less is known about its work in Eastern and Central Europe in the decades following World War II. Intermittently, JDC was expelled from the various Eastern Bloc countries and invited to return; the timing for each country mirrored the government’s agenda at the time. Jewish communities in the Eastern Bloc found themselves isolated from the Jewish world and cut off from access to vital material support. JDC was restricted in the kind of activity it could pursue. During periods when it was unable to operate in-country, the Joint, to the extent possible, provided discreet relief, distributing basic goods to sustain families both physically and spiritually for months at a time. In periods of political upheaval such as in Hungary in 1956 and in Poland and Czechoslovakia in 1968, the Joint also assisted those who chose to leave the countries behind the Iron Curtain. In these times of crisis, JDC often became a target of Communist propagandists and its activities were blatantly distorted, especially during the early 1950s, when Communist propaganda depicted JDC as a “Zionist spy organization” whose goal was to overthrow the socialist system.
We invite proposals that explore the following questions: What roles did JDC play in the survival of the region’s Jewish communities during the period and what impacts did this have? How was JDC able to navigate the political constraints in the region in order to provide assistance to Jewish communities? How should we understand the attacks against the Joint in Communist propaganda?
If you would like to submit a proposal, please send a title, a brief abstract of 250-350 words in English and a brief bio to Isabelle Rohr, Manager of Academic Programs and Outreach at the JDC Archives, (Isabelle.firstname.lastname@example.org) by January 4, 2019. The language of the workshop will be English. We will notify invited participants in February 2019. Participants who are not local will receive room for the duration of the program, and we will provide limited modest subventions to offset travel costs.