New York (Mar. 28)
The activities of the Joint Distribution Committee of America are to be continued, it was decided at the annual meeting of the National Council of the Joint Distribution Committee held yesterday at the Hotel Pennsylvania here, attended by 300 delegates from all parts of the country.
Reports were presented to the Conference by MR. Joseph C. Hyman, the Secretary of the Joint Distribution Committee, and by Dr. Bernhard Kahn, the European Director of the Joint Distribution Committee, who indicated that the conditions in East European Jewry are now worse than they were during the war and post-war periods.
The Joint Distribution Committee has been re-organised in a National Council consisting of 475 members, with 48 directors and 15 Executive members.
Mr. Paul Baerwald, who was Treasurer since the inception of the Joint Distribution Committee, has been elected Chairman in succession to Mr. Felix M. Warburg, who has become Honorary Chairman, Mr. James N. Rosenberg has been elected Treasurer and Mr. Joseph C. Hyman Secretary.
Addresses were delivered by Dr. Cyrus Adler, President of the American Jewish Committee and Chairman of the Administrative Committee of the Jewish Agency, by Mr. B. C. Vladek, the Chairman of the American Folk-O.R.T. Organisation and Manager of the Jewish daily “Forwards”, Mr. M. Hellman, Rabbi Jonah B. Wise, and Mr. David A. Brown.
The memory of the late Mr. Julius Rosenwald, the great humanitarian, who was one of the chief benefactors of the Joint Distribution Committee, was honoured by the gathering. Messages were received from President Hoover and from Lieut-Governor Lehman of New York State, expressing deep appreciation of Mr. Rosenwald’s life-work.
Mr. Paul F. Warburg read a statement by his father, Mr. Felix M. Warburg, paying tribute to Mr. Rosenwald’s great humanitarian work and spirit.
Addresses were also delivered by the Rev. R. Fosdick and other speakers.
The question whether the Joint Distribution Committee which was founded as a war-time emergency organisation should continue as a permanent organisation has been under consideration for several years. In 1927 Mr. Felix M. Warburg, writing to a Jewish paper in America which had urged the Joint Distribution Committee to constitution itself as a permanent body, said:
The proposition that the Joint should become a permanent body is very interesting and has come from a number of sides. I have stated at a number of meetings my opinion that the time has come when the Joint, created as an organisation for the relief of war sufferers, should go out of existence as such, but I expressed at the same time the hope that a body, similarly democratically organised, should succeed it, perhaps under the aegis of the American Jewish Committee, which is probably the most respected representative Jewish organisation in the United States. This latter Committee stated that it was not in a position to take over this work, but a number of other suggestions have been made which may or may mot modify the scheme touched upon above.
While it is very flattering to have this demand come from a number of sides, I personally do not believe in self-appointed committees, which feel that they have the right to speak for Jewry at large. I believe that the mandate of the Joint Distribution Committee to relieve war sufferers has been filled to quite an extent, but there are, of course, innumerable things which American Jewry can do, not only city-wide, state-wide or even United States-wide, but our interest in the Jewish community abroad must be kept alive until the waters abroad have become calmer and, to use the popular language of the day, until they can paddle their own canoes without any danger of their being upset in the rough seas of political upheaval which still exist abroad.
WAS LIQUIDATED EIGHT YEARS AGO BUT RESUMED ACTIVITIES AFTER ONLY ONE YEAR OF SEMI-LIQUIDATION BECAUSE OF URGENT NEED IN RUSSIA AND EASTERN EUROPE GENERALLY
The Joint Distribution Committee, which was organised in November 1914 as a war-time relief body to distribute the funds received by the American Jewish Relief Committee, the Central Committee for the Relief of Jews Suffering through the War and the People’s Relief Committee, was not intended at the outset to be a permanent organisation. Steps were accordingly taken early in 1924 to liquidate its activities. The whole of the work of the Joint Distribution Committee in Russia was to have been liquidated by April 1st., 1924, when Dr. Joseph Rosen, then Director of the Joint’s Reconstruction activity in Russia, and now head of the Agrojoint, was to have left Russia. The late Dr. Boris B. Bogen, the Director of the relief activity in Russia for the Joint Distribution Committee, closed his Department and returned to America. Before leaving Russia, Dr. Bogen distributed 200,000 dollars among the relief institutions which had been set up and maintained by the Joint, which was to represent the final sum allocated for relief work in Russia. Arrangements were also made to liquidate the work of the Joint Distribution Committee in Poland. In April 1924, the Joint’s offices in Poland were closed down and its archives were transferred to the European headquarters which are in charge of Dr. Bernhard Kahn.
The Joint-Ica-Reconstruction Foundation was established in 1924 in order to take over the work of reconstruction previously conducted by the Joint Distribution Committee.
After only one year of semi-liquidation, however, the Joint Distribution Committee decided in May 1925, in view of the urgent need in Russia and Eastern Europe generally, to restart its relief activity. Mr. Felix M. Warburg, the Chairman of the Joint Distribution Committee, issued a statement explaining that unhappily the hope which had been held in America that conditions in Eastern Europe would improve had not been realised.
In February 1929 the question came up again, the Joint Distribution Committee holding a referendum among a hundred thousand of its contributors and campaign leaders, asking them to say whether the Joint Distribution Committee should continue to exist after December 1st., 1929.
96 per cent. of the replies received in the referendum declared that the work of the Joint Distribution Committee must go on.
This was also the sense of the Conference of the Joint Distribution Committee held in New York in May 1929, at which a resolution to this effect was adopted, and a Re-organisation Committee was appointed to draft a new constitution and methods of operation for the Joint Distribution Committee so that the forms adhered to in 1914, when the emergency war need existed, should be replaced by a more permanent and “more orderly method”, and the abolition of the three different constituent bodies, the American Jewish Relief Committee, the Central Relief Committee and the People’s Relief Committee.
The National Council of the Joint Distribution Committee was formed last year to direct the relief and economic and social reconstruction work of the Joint Distribution Committee, and the present is the first annual meeting of the National Committee since its formation.