Yekopo

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YEKOPO

YEKOPO (acronym of Yevreyskiy komitet pomoschi zhertvam voyny – "Jewish Relief Committee for War Victims"), organization formed in Russia after the outbreak of World War i to succor Jewish war victims. The need for such relief was most urgent because many Jewish communities were situated in the battle regions and had already suffered heavily during the first days of the war. Many refugees streamed to the rear from the front. The situation deteriorated with the intensification of the anti-Jewish policy adopted by the military authorities, which at first took the form of the detention of Jews as hostages and subsequently of mass expulsions from the battle regions. These persecutions reached their climax in the great expulsion of the Jews from the provinces of *Kovno and *Courland in the spring of 1915. It was also necessary to support the tens of thousands of families of Jewish soldiers. The committee of Petrograd rapidly became the central committee to which all the local branches addressed themselves. Its task was to raise funds and distribute them among the local committees and the various bodies that preoccupied themselves with the different relief activities as well as the organization and supervision of relief activities in various places. The committees of Moscow (yevopo) and of Kiev (kope) were of particular importance.

The yekopo was headed by members of the older intelligentsia and the leading capitalists of St. Petersburg, such as Baron A. *Guenzburg, H. *Sliozberg, D. *Feinberg, M. *Vinawer, L. *Bramson, and J. *Brutzkus. The brunt of the practical work, however, was carried out by "accredited" officials of the committee who came mainly from the ranks of the popular intelligentsia and more particularly from among the members of the Jewish Socialist parties. The committee received much support from the older societies, such as the *Society for the Promotion of Culture among the Jews of Russia, *ort, *Jewish Colonization Association (ica) and *oze. Relief took the form of arrangements for the transportation of the refugees; the provision of escorts for their convoys; provisional arrangement for their nutrition, clothing, and accommodation; the provision of medical care; the organization of "medical-sanitary units"; the care of children and, later, efforts to find them employment and occupations; the establishment of credit funds; the development of vocational schools and courses, etc. In addition, the committee represented the Jewish population before the authorities in its demands for assistance to the Jewish war victims.

For internal and external political reasons, the government recognized the committee and encouraged it by granting authority to its delegates and workers; they received the status of government officials, a factor of prime importance during the period of the hostilities. The committee also maintained relations with the general public institutions, such as the All-Russian Alliance of Towns, and zemstvo workers. By the end of 1916, the committee had provided its services to 240,000 Jews (out of the estimated total of 350,000 Jewish war refugees). The funds received by the central committee in Petrograd until then – 31,000,000 rubles – were derived from the sources as shown in the table below.

The important allocation of the government is also of historical and political significance, as is the considerable contribution of the Jews of the United States. The participation of Russian Jewry in this relief enterprise was larger than is apparent in the table, because many of the funds which were collected in the provinces did not pass through the

Source Total in rubles %
Russian government17,179,00055.8
General Russian Relief Committee292,0000.9
American Jewish Joint Distribution7,258,00023.6
Committee (United States)
British Jewry1,693,0005.5
South American Jewry403,0001.3
France (through Rothschild)250,0000.8
Contributions of the Jews of Petrograd2,012,0006.5
Contributions of the Jews in the provinces1,700,0005.6
Total30,787,000100.0

treasury of the central committee but were directly spent by the local committees. A considerable part of the communities' funds were derived from a system of compulsory contributions.

The activities of yekopo also encompassed the Jews of the regions occupied by the Russian army in Galicia and Bukovina. In the execution of their tasks, several divergences of opinion emerged between the workers of the committee, mainly over cultural problems (religious or secular education, schools in the Russian, Hebrew or Yiddish languages), with each side attempting to divert the relief activities in the direction of its own outlook. Much material on the history of this relief work is to be found in the central periodical of yekopo, Pomoshch (1915–16; later Delo Pomoshchi, 1916–17). After the Revolution of February 1917, when the focus of the political activity of Russian Jewry was transferred to the public organizations and the parties, yekopo pursued its relief work in a restricted sense. It also continued its activities during the civil war years, when the central role was played by the committee of Kiev (kope). In 1920, with the establishment of the Jewish-Soviet relief organization Idgeskom, the yekopo was in practice absorbed by it. The committee of yekopo continued to function in the provinces of *Vilna and *Novogrudok, within the borders of independent Poland, where it concentrated efforts on the rehabilitation of the communities which had been severely affected by World War i and the Polish-Soviet war. The committee was then headed by Dr. Z. *Shabad and was mainly supported by the *American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (jdc).

bibliography:

yekopo, Report for Aug. 1914June 1917 (Rus., 1917); I. Trotki, in: J. Frumkin, et al. (eds.), Kniga o russkom yevreystve (1960), 495–7 (= Russian Jewry 18601917, 1966); M. Shalit (ed.), Oyf di Khurves fun Milkhomes un Mehumes (1931).

[Yehuda Slutsky]