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Kahn, Bernard


KAHN, BERNARD (1876–1955), organization executive. Born in Oscarsham, Sweden, Kahn studied in Germany, where he became involved in Jewish communal affairs. In 1904 he was appointed secretary-general of the *Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden, a position he held until 1921 and from which he helped direct the large flow of Jewish emigration in those years from Germany and Central Europe to the United States. In 1921 he became director of the refugee department of the *American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (jdc), whose main European office was in Paris, and in 1924 overall European director of the jdc, as well as managing director of its subsidiary, the American Joint Reconstruction Foundation. Kahn held these positions until 1939, a period during which the Joint was called on to perform enormous tasks in the fields of resettlement, medical and financial help, and education and vocational training, particularly among the ravaged Jewish communities of Eastern Europe, to which he frequently traveled. His own special interest was in the Reconstruction Foundation, which created a large network of cooperative Jewish loan societies that provided a credit and banking structure for Jews who were being progressively shut out of economic life in various Central and Eastern European countries. His knowledge of finance also led him to play active roles in the Central Bank for Cooperative Investment in Palestine, the Palestine Economic Corporation, and Keren Hayesod. With the outbreak of World War ii in 1939, Kahn emigrated to the U.S. He served as honorary chairman of the jdc European Council from 1939 to 1950 and as vice chairman of the jdc from 1950 until his death.

[Hillel Halkin]

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