Kosher Food for Body & Soul
October 9, 2016
Beis Moshiach in #1041, Chabad History, Jewish Refugee Crisis, Mivtza Kashrus

The Frierdiker Rebbe’s request: Please send “truly religious rabbis of first class personality” to assist the Jewish refugees in Europe * The basic requirements of Jewish educational institutions: to have Kosher kitchens and to provide the children with religious teachers and instructors * “I find it hard to believe that the AJDC would be guilty, either knowingly or inadvertently, of supplying Terefah foods to the Jewish DPs” * The Jewish Refugee Crisis – Second Installment 

In the first installment of theRefugee Crisiswe presented the Rebbes efforts in 1945, at the conclusion of World War II to provide spiritual material for the Jewish refugees. During the following year this work took on a new urgency, as the refugees scattered inDisplaced Persons (DP) Campswere not moving out, and their needs were not fully met.

This second installment will focus on the Frierdiker Rebbe’s work with the American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) to ensure that the refugees have access to Kosher food and Orthodox Rabbinical guidance.

These fascinating documents are part of the JDC Archives (which were digitized and uploaded online, thanks to a grant from Dr. Georgette Bennett and Dr. Leonard Polonsky CBE).

Please Send “First Class” Rabbis

Before Pesach 1946, the Frierdiker Rebbe received urgent requests for help from Jews stranded in DP camps in Italy. The Frierdiker Rebbe was in contact with the JDC to try and secure Kosher food for Pesach for them, and the JDC provided partial help. After Pesach, the Frierdiker Rebbe worked hard to ensure that these refugees have continued access to Kosher food, and petitioned the heads of the JDC to do all they can to provide these religious needs.

On May 1, 1946 [1st day of Rosh Chodesh Iyar 5706], the Frierdiker Rebbe sent a telegram to Dr. Joseph Schwartz, the chairman of the JDC:

I am informed [that the] Joint New York referred my recent telegrams to you.

While gratified [to receive the] report from Italy [that] Joint’s prompt cooperation provided kosher feeding [to] almost all displaced Jews, I am further informed [that the] problem continues, [and] kosher feeding [is] still unsolved, largely because Joint Director [Jacob] Trobe makes subsidy for kosher feeding dependent on presenting a formal application by ‘Sochnuth’ representatives, so-called ‘Merkas LaGola’ which changes [the] procedure, making settlement impossible because Merkas gentlemen [are] irreligious.

I am greatly surprised [that] such conditions could be made, which on any case don’t absolve [the] Joint’s responsibility.

I hope you will instruct said Joint Director on [the] Joint’s real attitude toward [the] question [of] kosher feeding and request his utmost cooperation in solving this problem.

I am informed [that the] problem [of] kosher meat [is] especially acute.

Having been assured by UNRRA headquarters and office requirements allocations department [of] agriculture [and] also by [the] State Department of their sympathetic cooperative understanding of this problem I believe Joint’s determined efforts to solve [the] problem [of] kosher meat would be fully successful.

I also understand [that the] Joint contemplates sending Rabbis in connection with religious necessities of surviving Jews, and I sincerely trust [that] truly religious rabbis of first class personality will be selected for this responsible task.

Please inform [me] of [the] action taken and oblige.

Blessing,

Rabbi Joseph Schneersohn

On the same day the Frierdiker Rebbe sent letters to various leaders of the JDC in America urging them to ensure that the Rabbis who are sent to Europe are religious Rabbis. The following is a translation of the letter to Dr. Joseph Hyman (JDC New York):

Dear Mr. Hyman:

I have learned that the J.D.C. is about to send several rabbis to Europe in connection with the spiritual and temporal work of relief it is conducting there.

It is needless to stress the importance of having orthodox rabbis represent the J.D.C., so that they should not belittle the importance of the spiritual work to be done in behalf of our rescued brethren; so that they should not be too lenient, where it is necessary to be strict, with the conduct of kosher kitchens, educational institutions, mikvoth and other religious and community institutions.

I hope and I am sure that you will give this matter your special attention, and that the J.D.C. will choose as its representatives in Europe rabbis who are absolutely kosher and acceptable to orthodox Jewry.

Thank you in advance.

Respectfully yours,

Ten days later, on May 10 1946 [9 Iyar 5706] Mrs. Henrietta Buchman responded to the Frierdiker Rebbe, detailing the way the JDC operates in this arena:

… The Joint Distribution Committee is very mindful of the spiritual values in Jewish life. Of course you appreciate that the responsibility with respect to the conduct of the work in any specific locality rests with the local committee, who naturally feel that they have a right to determine for themselves the standards of Kashruth, which should be observed in their area.

All Orphanages Must Have Kosher Kitchens

While the issue of Kosher food for the general refugee population was being discussed, a new issue cropped up. The Frierdiker Rebbe received news that some of the orphanages and homes for refugee children did not have kosher kitchens and the children were not receiving a Jewish Education.

On July 24 2946 [25 Tamuz 5706] the Frierdiker Rebbe sent a heartfelt plea to Dr. Joseph Schwartz (the Chairman of the JDC), pleading with him to rectify the situation:

Dear Mr. Schwartz:

My attention has just been drawn to conditions prevailing in the children’s camps, homes and Kibutzim in the Italian area. I was gratified to hear that the Joint representatives in Italy have recently shown a better understanding of the problem concerning the religious Jewish children, especially with regard to Kosher feeding and education. However, unfortunately, as I am informed, the problem in some camps and Kibutsim is very acute, there being no adequate facilities for Kosher feeding and religious education.

I therefore address this heartfelt plea to you to do all you can to solve the problem of Kosher feeding and religious education in the Jewish children’s homes, camps and Kibutsim in the Italian zone. It is the basic requirement of our religion that all Jewish orphanages and children’s homes without exception, have Kosher kitchens. It is similarly one of the basic requirements of our religion that care be taken to provide the children with religious teachers and instructors to bring them up in the tradition of their parents, in loyalty to our sacred spiritual heritage.

I do not underestimate the difficulties that may be involved in solving these problems, but with the goodwill of the Joint leadership and representatives and with firm determination, these problems can and must be solved.

I shall appreciate receiving word from you as to what steps have been taken in this matter.

With all good wishes,

Sincerely yours,

Rabbi Joseph I. Schneersohn

A week later, on August 1 1946 [4 Av 5706], the Frierdiker Rebbe received a lengthy and detailed response from Mr. Edward Phillips, from the JDC Child Care committee, explaining the work of the JDC with children in the Italian Zone:

…The JDC’s activities in Italy for displaced Jews are extensive. Although military authorities and UNRRA were responsible for basic assistance to non-Italian Jews, the JDC was called upon to provide supplementary aid for large numbers in UNRRA assembly centers, or in transit. Thousands of infiltrees in their trek southward have presented a difficult problem. During the first six months of 1946 the JDC appropriations for its Italian program amounted to $615,000, the bulk of the expenditures being for Jewish displaced persons.

As of June 1946 there were 8,500 Jewish displaced persons in 6 regular and 3 transient camps and 7,000 refugees in sixty Hachsharoth installations. Less than 5% of the population in the camps and Hachsharoth were children under the age of 14 years.

Educational and cultural activities in the four southern camps, through arrangements with UNRRA, are the responsibility solely of the JDC and are fairly well developed. According to one of our representatives who just returned from Italy in June, after a stay of over one year there, every camp has a school for children. Provisions exist for religious education in these schools with their use depending on the desires of the parents or guardian-relatives of the children. In one children’s camp in Italy at S. Ceseria, under the auspices of UNRRA, the 150-200 children in the camp benefit from the JDC subsidized religious-educational program carried on by a Rabbi who is a volunteer worker with UNRRA. In the refugee children’s home at Selvino, the 250 occupants have complete educational facilities, with religious training available for those children who desire it. Consideration is presently being given to the opening of a home for Orthodox children.

The UNRRA has also established a teachers’ seminar in S. Mariada Lenoa. It is hoped that those trained in the school will return to the camps to lead the various programs there, including religious education.

… We have also endeavored to meet the problem of Kosher food for the refugees who desire Kashruth. You recognize, of course, that there are many difficulties in the way of providing Kosher food. As of June 1st, the JDC has attempted to overcome this problem by subsidizing Kosher kitchens to the extent of 1000 lira per person for the 3,300 persons in the camps who wish to eat Kosher. This enables the Kosher kitchens to serve Kosher meat at least four times a week. A number of the Hachsharoth whose population desire Kashruth also participate in this program. Recently we shipped 10,800 lbs. of Kosher meat to Italy to augment local supplies.

An analysis of our expenditures in Italy during 1946 reveals that a large part was devoted to education of refugee children, kosher kitchens and Passover relief. We shall continue in our effort to further the relief and rehabilitation of displaced Jewry in Italy, giving full consideration to the spiritual and religious needs of our children.

“Investigate it Immediately”

About a year later the Frierdiker Rebbe again received disturbing news that there is a problem with the Kosher food in the DP camps, this time in Austria and Germany, and on June 23 1947 [5 Tamuz 5707], he sent the following letter to the JDC:

I have been informed that in the camps of the Jewish DPs in Austria and Germany canned meat products distributed to the Jewish DPs by A. J. D. C. institutions included Terefah foods.

I have been further informed that many Jewish DPs, not being fully satisfied as to the Kashruth of such foodstuffs, abstain from eating them, although the proteins contained therein, if Kosher, are necessary for their undermined and undernourished health.

I find it hard to believe that the AJDC would be guilty, either knowingly or inadvertently, of supplying Terefah foods to the Jewish DPs, and I rather hope that the information I received was based on a misapprehension.

However, because of the seriousness of the matter, I ask you to investigate it immediately. Should there be some truth in the matter, I sincerely trust you will correct it without delay, and see to it that there should be no recurrence of such disregard for the religious feelings of our sorely tried brethren.

I am anxiously awaiting a detailed report on the matter, and I trust the AJDC will give it its immediate attention, for which I thank you in anticipation.

Very truly yours,

Rabbi Joseph I. Schneerson

A week later, on June 30 1947 [12 Tamuz 5707], Mr. Jacob Joslaw responded on behalf of the JDC, that they do all they can to supply the Kosher needs of the refugees, and they will ask the Paris office to look into the information the Frierdiker Rebbe received.

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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