In 1914, seven million Jews across Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean were caught in the crossfire of warring empires in a disaster of stupendous, unprecedented proportions. In response, American Jews developed a new model of humanitarian relief for their suffering brethren abroad, wandering into American foreign policy as they navigated a wartime political landscape. The effort continued into peacetime, touching every interwar Jewish community in these troubled regions through long-term refugee, child welfare, public health, and poverty alleviation projects. Against the backdrop of war, revolution, and reconstruction, this is the story of American Jews who went abroad in solidarity to rescue and rebuild Jewish lives in Jewish homelands. As they constructed a new form of humanitarianism and re-drew the map of modern philanthropy, they rebuilt the Jewish Diaspora itself in the image of the modern social welfare state.
International Jewish Humanitarianism in the Age of the Great War
In her path-breaking International Jewish Humanitarianism in the Age of the Great War, Jaclyn Granick illustrates how the destruction wreaked by World War I was transformative, not only in the annals of Jewish history, but also in the history of humanitarian activism. Mining archives in places as disparate as New York, Washington, Geneva, Cincinnati, and Jerusalem and sifting through documents in numerous languages, Granick shows how the war and its devastation created “a long-lasting systemic change across the Jewish world.” This change was wrought by a group of actors, who Granick painstakingly brings to life with her nuanced understanding of archival documents — as well as their silences. The author has produced a compelling story of how American Jewish funders worked with experts in Europe to rebuild Jewish life in war-torn regions. She reveals how the activism of organizations such as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is central to any larger understanding of humanitarian activism, US foreign policy, and world Jewish history in the twentieth century.
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