Background image: red-tinged pencil sketch of soldiers in battle, almost abstract in its chaos. Foreground text: For Liberty / American Jewish Experience in WWI

For Liberty: American Jewish Experience in WWI

June 29 – Nov. 11, 2018, Wylie Gallery

“The wrongs against which we now array ourselves are no common wrongs; they cut to the very roots of human life.”

— President Woodrow Wilson addressing Congress


With American Jewish battlefield and home front participation in World War I, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise spoke for many when he wrote in the New York Times that military service would “mark the burial, without the hope of resurrection, of hyphenism, and will token the birth of a united and indivisible country.”

Nearly 250,000 Jews served in the American Expeditionary Forces, which totaled 4.8 million men and women. Eighteen percent were foreign born.

“I’m in a barracks with 270,” wrote one Jewish draftee, “and so far I’ve found a half dozen men who could speak English without an accent.”

Service men and women were not segregated by religion or ethnicity except for African Americans. Hailed by Time magazine as “a deep dive into a strange, history-shaking year” and by the New York Times as “remarkably prescient” For Liberty: American Jewish Experience in WWI shares these incredible stories through remarkable objects.

The exhibition features a letter from American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) leader Louis Marshall appealing to Jewish philanthropists like Julius Rosenwald to support the Ten Million Dollar Fund. Rosenwald was president of Sears, Roebuck & Company.

A map tells the amounts pledged to the JDC for Jewish war sufferers, 1917. A poster shows a shipment of kosher meat being loaded onto the SS Ashburn in New York City, bound for Danzig, Poland, June 1919. There is a photograph of the Passover Seder for the American Expeditionary Forces, Paris, France, April 1919.

From Irving Berlin’s draft registration card to the handwritten draft of the Balfour Declaration, July 17, 1917, of Leon Simon’s, which was forwarded to Lord Balfour, this exhibition illustrates the promise, the trials and tribulations and the lasting effects of World War I on the American Jewish population.

Congressman Julius Kahn, from California, served as Chairman of the House Military Affairs Committee, U.S. Congress. He wrote: “I desire to congratulate my co-religionists on the splendid showing they are making in the matter of serving our country in this war.”

For Liberty: American Jewish Experience in WWI, originally exhibited as 1917: How One Year Changed the World is organized by the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia and the American Jewish Historical Society in New York and made possible in part by the National Endowment of the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor.

Poster reading, "United Behind the Service Star/United War Work Campaign," ca. 1918. | National Museum of American Jewish History 2006.1.1162 Peter H. Schweitzer Collection of Jewish Americana
Eva Davidson (right) with her fellow Marines. Davidson, an American Jew, was one of the first 300 women to enlist. | National Museum of American Jewish History, 1992.126.19 Gift of Judge Murray C. Goldman in memory of his cousin Eva Davidson Radbill
World War I soldier William Shemin’s Medal of Honor framed with certificate, 2015. | Courtesy of Elsie Shemin-Roth
Cover of sheet music, "Milchume Kalles" from play "Jewish War Brides." | National Museum of American Jewish History 1985.64.40, Dedicated in memory of Sidney A. Leventon by Lyn and George Ross
Postcard from Golda Meir about the American Jewish Congress in Philadelphia, 1918. | National Museum of American Jewish History 2011.168.1, Dedicated in honor of Lyn Ross by Constance Williams
Handbill, “The Answer to the Call,” Jewish Welfare Board, United War Work Campaign, 1918. | National Museum of American Jewish History 1991.8.88, Gift of the Anne and John P. McNulty Foundation in honor of Lyn M. and George M. Ross
Draft of The Balfour Declaration, handwritten on Imperial Hotel stationery, 1917. Courtesy of Martin Franklin


Bank of Blue Valley/Regnier Family Foundation

Herb and Bonnie Buchbinder

Media Sponsors

Kansas City Jewish Chronicle


Honorary Committee Chairs

Bonnie and Herb Buchbinder, Michael Klein, Ann and Bob Regnier


Honorary Committee

The Sosland Family Foundation

Ann and G. Kenneth Baum

Edward Jones

Francis Family Foundation, discretionary of David V. Francis

Marleen and Ron Gold

Shirley and Barnett C. Helzberg, Jr.

LaPaloma Plaza / Ron Gold and Allen Cinnamon

Marny and John Sherman

Don and Christine Alexander Foundation

Marlys and Michael Haverty / Haverty Foundation

Karen and Mike Herman

Liz and John Hjalmarson

Debbie and Kerry Lindenbaum

The Jewish Community Center of Kansas City

Park University

Rainen Companies

Irv Robinson and Ellen Miller

Debbie and Neil Bass

Nancy and John Dillingham

Susie and Ronnie Goldsmith

Gail and Harry Himmelstein

Jenny and John Isenberg

Rosalyn and Howard Jacobson

Rita Kahn

Miriam and Eric Kaseff

Lisa and James Klein

Regina and Bill Kort

Shanny and Eric Morgenstern

John Rubenstein

The Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City

The Truman Library Institute