NEW YORK – Three online archives have recently opened, providing widely
accessible windows into Jewish history and primary and secondary
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency celebrated its new Jewish News
Archive (www.archive.jta.org) on Tuesday night at New York’s Center for Jewish
History. The Jewish News Archive will provide online access to over a quarter
million articles from the JTA dating back to the 1920s; use is
“With free access to nearly a century of reporting about global
events affecting world Jewry, the archive will not only serve as a rich resource
for both the casually curious as well as students and scholars of modern Jewish
history, it will also transform the way the next generation of Jewish leaders
and activists learn about their heritage,” the site reads, deeming itself “a
comprehensive chronicle of modern Jewish history, as seen through the eyes of
“The JTA Jewish News Archive has the potential to spark an
interest in the past that will transform the future,” says Brandeis University
professor Jonathan Sarna. Sarna, a member of JTA’s Board of Directors, chaired
Originally named the Jewish Correspondence Bureau, the
Jewish Telegraphic Agency was the first news agency that not only gathered but
also disseminated news in every part of the world.
Also this month, the
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee will make a collection of its
historic records and photographs from the Holocaust period available online. The
website – www.jdc.org/sharedlegacy – will allow the public to search through a
database of more than half a million names.
The system will also allow
people to view and identify photos from 14 countries where JDC operated during
and after World War II. JDC client lists from operations in Barcelona, Shanghai,
Kobe and Vilna, the JDC Emigration Service in Vienna and Munich, as well as
Australia and South America, will be available.
“I cannot express the
profoundly deep connection I felt to my past and now to JDC when out of nowhere
my young face popped up on the screen,” Claus Hirsch, a German- born Shanghai
Ghetto survivor, told the JDC. Hirsch found a photo of himself in Shanghai on
Hirsch’s family was helped by JDC in China during the war,
and he found two lists on which his family members’ names appear. He now lives
“For six decades, the vast majority of this data has been
available only to professional researchers,” JDC CEO Steven Schwager said in a
“Now, thanks to technology, survivors and their descendants
can directly engage with our shared history.”
JDC is inviting the public
to tag people they know in more than 1,500 photos from Austria, Belgium, China,
Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, the Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Japan,
Morocco, Lithuania, Portugal and Spain.
“Whether you were a little Jewish
child we aided in Barcelona or one of the Jews we supported in Displaced Persons
camps after the war, by putting faces, names and stories together, you will
benefit generations to come,” Schwager said.
JDC plans to launch its
Global Archives website this spring, making available huge collections of newly
digitized documents and its significant photo collection from the organization's
founding in 1914.
And third, Project HEART (the Holocaust Era Asset
Restitution Taskforce) launched a large, publicly available and searchable
database (www.heartwebsite.org) of more than 650,000 Holocaust era property
records on Wednesday.
The records were compiled and made on the
initiative of the Jewish Agency, with support from the Israeli government, to
help Jewish families identify personal property confiscated by the Nazis and to
help victims seek restitution.
MK Leah Nass, deputy minister for
pensioner affairs, said on Wednesday, “We sincerely hope that restituting
Holocaust assets will assist survivors that were unable to receive proper
redress until today, and allow them to live out their lives with greater peace
of mind despite the unspeakable losses they were forced to endure.”
Project HEART database will be composed of of property addresses, insurance
policies, lists of homeowners, professions, lists of known confiscated
properties, business directories, and other archival information that can help
potential applicants in their research.
HEART’s database will be the
international community’s largest single-source database of lost Jewish property
assets from the Holocaust era.
“Israel’s very strength and national
determination is derived from those who were forced to experience the very worst
of humanity,” Project HEART’s Executive Director Bobby Brown said. “It is
therefore incumbent upon the Jewish nation to do our utmost to give them some
measure of justice which they have been denied for so long.”
Holocaust was not only genocide of the Jewish people, but the greatest robbery
in history,” Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency, said.
new technological tools together with the official involvement of the State of
Israel in this process give us the hope that this time things will be different.
As a former Prisoner of Zion, I remember the difficulty that existed in
transferring information in the Soviet Union. In the age of the Internet, Google
and Facebook allow us to create magnificent revolutions.
website has received more than 700,000 hits during its first few
Project HEART unveiled a set of archival records on Wednesday in
an event attended by leaders of the American Jewish community, including former
secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger and Jewish community leader James
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed attendees by video and
said, “This is an initiative of great importance and offers us the promise that
we can finally achieve the justice so long denied to the victims of the
Holocaust and their heirs.”