chapter  9
Jewish Wards of the Soviet State: Fayvl Sito’s These Are Us gennady estraikh
Pages 17

The First World War and Civil War had left millions of children orphaned and homeless, roaming the streets in the former Imperial Russian areas which would constitute the Soviet Union in the early 1920s. Among this war-caused f lotsam were tens of thousands of Jewish children who had lost their parents or lived in families who were unable to provide them with the basic necessities. The Jewish Public Committee to Aid Victims of War, Pogroms and Natural Disasters — known as Idgezkom, or Yidgezkom (Evobshchestkom in Russian) — was one of the most significant, if short-lived (from 1920 to 1924) and little-researched, Jewish organizations in the early Soviet state. It was an open secret that ‘the so-called Jewish Public Committee’ was ‘only public in name’, because it was ‘composed of persons [...] directly connected with the [Soviet] Government’.1 In any case, the Idgezkom had an office in New York and generally served as a link between Soviet governmental structures and foreign relief organizations, most notably the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee ( JDC), established soon after the outbreak of World War I. Work with children constituted one of the main areas of activities of the Idgezkom and its foreign counterparts.