Cover image for The response of Orthodox Jewry in the United States to the Holocaust : the activities of the Vaad ha-Hatzala Rescue Committee, 1939-1945
The response of Orthodox Jewry in the United States to the Holocaust : the activities of the Vaad ha-Hatzala Rescue Committee, 1939-1945
Zuroff, Efraim.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Michael Scharf Publication Trust of the Yeshiva University Press ; Hoboken, N.J. : [Distributed by] KTAV Pub. House, [2000]

Physical Description:
xxiv, 316 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Corporate Subject:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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D804.6 .Z87 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The Vaad ha-Hatzalah was established by Orthodox rabbis in the United States in 1939 to rescue European rabbis and yeshiva students. Using hitherto inaccessible documents. Dr. Zuroff chronicles the successes and failures of the Vaad, focusing on its relations with the Joint Distribution Committee and local federations throughout the United States. Its very founding was controversial, and its policy of giving priority to rabbis and yeshiva students led to bitter debates. By examining the ineffectual responses of American Jewish organizations to news of the Holocaust the book explains why Orthodox rabbis preferred to "go it alone," and even to ignore governmental regulations detrimental to their rescue efforts.

Author Notes

Dr. Efraim Zuroff is currently the director of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the coordinator of the Center's Nazi war crimes research worldwide.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

In this remarkable book, Zuroff tells the story of the Vaad ha-Hatzala, an association of American Orthodox Jewry that rescued rabbis and yeshiva students in Nazi-occupied Europe. The Vaad rescued approximately 625 Polish rabbis and students from Lithuania by way of East Asia. It helped keep alive hundreds of refugee Torah scholars living under extremely harsh conditions during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai. (The group later saved other Jews, but Zuroff's study ends in January 1944, except for a brief recounting of the Vaad's activities in 1944 and 1955 in an afterword.) Zuroff has utilized previously unpublished documents from the archives of the Vaad at Yeshiva University in New York City, the archives of the Joint Distribution Committee in New York, and archives at Brandeis University, along with other archives worldwide. Zuroff presents the first comprehensive history of the association and examines the extent to which it succeeded in fulfilling its objectives. --George Cohen

Choice Review

Meticulously researched and thoroughly grounded in archival and other primary sources, this important book recounts the multifarious actions of the Vaad ha-Hatzala, the American Orthodox rabbinical rescue organization founded in November 1939, initially to rescue yeshiva sages and students trapped in Poland and Lithuania during WW II. First highlighting the WW I antecedents of this enterprise, Zuroff, director of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, vividly depicts the full scope of the Vaad's activities--negotiating visas, purchasing travel tickets, defraying resettlement costs, underwriting upkeep of families, political lobbying, and the ever critical fund-raising. This latter activity repeatedly found the Vaad at odds with the Jewish establishment organizations and having to defend its separatism against charges of needless duplication, communal divisiveness, and illegal behavior. Upon assimilating news of the Final Solution, the Vaad gradually evolved from saving Torah Judaism and the cream of Torah scholars into a full-scale rescue organization for all Jews. A lucid narrative, this book judiciously evaluates the Vaad's role and success in rescue against the background of constantly changing sociopolitical circumstances in Europe and the US. It is required reading for all interested in the Holocaust and American Jewish responses to it. Upper-division undergraduates and up. B. Kraut; CUNY Queens College

Table of Contents

Prof. Yehuda Bauer
Acknowledgementsp. ix
Forewordp. xiii
Introductionp. xv
Chapter 1 Historic Tiesp. 1
Chapter 2 The Establishment of the Emergency Committee for War-Torn Yeshivotp. 23
Chapter 3 The Mission of Dr. Samuel Schmidtp. 44
Chapter 4 Visas to Curacao and Rescue via the Far Eastp. 80
Chapter 5 The Tickets Campaignp. 115
Chapter 6 Entry Permits to Shanghaip. 145
Chapter 7 Visas to Canadap. 170
Chapter 8 Relief to Central Asia and Shanghaip. 191
Chapter 9 News of the Final Solution and Attempts to Achieve Unityp. 219
Chapter 10 Internalization of the Disaster and A Change in Perspectivep. 239
Afterwordp. 273
Bibliographyp. 288
Indicesp. 302