Re-evaluating the Role of American Jewry During the Shoah

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2022

Tuesday, April 26, 12 pm – 1:30 pm ET
Live on Zoom, $10 GA, Registration Required
Click Here to Register

Holocaust scholarship has generally been critical of the role of American Jewry during the Shoah. Many believe that American Jews could have done much more than they did to save the Jews of Europe.

The JDC stands as the great exception to the “knew nothing, did nothing” generalizations. Scholarship shows that it quietly “saved hundreds of thousands of lives in its tireless efforts to rescue Jews from Europe.” A growing body of literature shows that the JDC did not work alone. Others worked clandestinely and behind the scenes, too. Recent scholarship shows that Jews across the United States secretly spied on the German Bund during the 1930s and worked to undermine its pro-Nazi activities. Much has recently appeared concerning individuals and groups, working under the radar, who rescued rabbis, scholars, labor leaders, children, and other Jews, obtaining precious immigration certificates to bring them into the country and settle them without drawing public attention. A Jewish sponsored news service, known as the Overseas News Agency uncovered and disseminated news of the persecution and murder of Jews, that would never have appeared in the general press had their “Jewish origin” been exposed. Further, books on the Jewish Labor Committee and the World Jewish Congress detail how hard they secretly worked to save Europe’s Jews.

This scholarship, which will be discussed in this lecture by Dr. Jonathan Sarna, points to the need for a full-scale reevaluation of American Jewry’s role in saving Jews and fighting Nazism during the Holocaust years.

About the Speaker
Dr. Jonathan Sarna is University Professor and the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History as well as the Director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University. He is also past president of the Association for Jewish Studies and Chief Historian of the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia. Jonathan Sarna is a JDC Board member and serves on JDC’s Archives Committee.

Dr. Sarna is the author or editor of more than 30 books on American Jewish history and life. His American Judaism: A History (Yale 2004), recently published in a second edition, won the 2004 “Everett Jewish Book of the Year Award” from the Jewish Book Council. His most recent books are Coming to Terms with America (JPS, 2021) and (with Benjamin Shapell) Lincoln and the Jews: A History (St. Martin’s, 2015).

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This program is co-sponsored by the JDC Archives, JDC Ambassadors and The Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History.

The JDC Archives houses one of the world’s most significant collections of modern Jewish history.  Comprising the organizational records of JDC, the world’s leading Jewish humanitarian organization, the archives’ rich text, photograph, and audio-visual collections document JDC activity in over 90 countries from 1914 to the present.  To learn more, please visit

JDC Ambassadors are individuals and families supporting Jewish humanitarian aid worldwide by making a meaningful, annual gift. For more information, contact

The Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History is the only museum in the nation dedicated to exploring and interpreting 360+ years of Jewish life in America. Through educational programs and experiences, the Museum seeks to connect Jews more closely to their heritage and to inspire in people of all backgrounds a greater appreciation for the diversity of the American experience and the freedoms to which all Americans aspire.