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HIAS Collection I-363

"… HIAS [is] the international migration agency of the American Jewish community. HIAS is a national resettlement agency and an international refugee service organization with programs around the world."1

Over the course of a three-year project, generously funded by HIAS in partnership with the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS), archivists at AJHS will organize, describe and make available to the public more than a thousand boxes of historical administrative files (c1955-2000) primarily from HIAS' New York headquarters. These files document the work of HIAS staff and lay leadership as they fulfilled the HIAS mission to rescue and resettle refugees and migrants. The bulk of the collection contains the files of the Executive Vice-Presidents and other executive staff in United States Operations, Overseas Operations, Government Relations and Marketing and Communications departments. They provide an in-depth look at the day to day work among HIAS professional staff in locations around the world, with HIAS clients and those who worked directly with them, and with other immigrant rescue and resettlement organizations in the United States and around the world.

In addition to the archival processing of HIAS' administrative files, this project includes the creation of a HIAS Client Database, cmade up of clients who registered with HIAS between 1955 and 2000. The database is now accessible to the public in limited capacity, through which former HIAS clients, genealogists and family members will be able to determine whether HIAS holds restricted case files on specific people. It can be accessed by clicking on the 'Client Database' link in the blue HIAS menu at the top of this page.

The history of HIAS officially begins in 1902, with the first establishment of an organization with the name Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS). Even before adopting their name, HIAS had been hard at work carrying out their mission in any way they could. As a rsult of their hard work, they have created and maintained an essential, thriving organization for more than 100 years. For a full overview of monumental dates in HIAS history, please visit the HIAS Timeline and our project blog ontherescuefront

Since its founding around the turn of the 20th century, “HIAS has been the worldwide arm of the American Jewish community for the rescue, relocation, family reunification and resettlement of refugees and other migrants.”2 As stated in the HIAS mission statement, HIAS “rescues people whose lives are in danger for being who they are, protects the most vulnerable refugees, helping them build new lives and reuniting them with their families, and advocates for the protection of refugees and assure[s] that displaced people are treated with the dignity they deserve.”3

We anticipate completing the HIAS project by the end of 2018. Please check back often for additional timeline items, posted images from the collection, and a link to our final finding aid for researchers. If you are interested in reading more about our archival processes and highlights from the collection, please sign up for updates from our blog, ontherescuefront


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1. Melanie Nezer, Resettlement at Risk: Meeting Emerging Challenges to Refugee Resettlement in Local Communities (New York: HIAS, February 2013), 3. Senior Director, U.S. Policy and Advocacy. https://www.hias.org/sites/default/files/resettlement_at_risk_1.pdf

2. David J. Schnall and Sheldon R. Gelman, “The Jewish Communal-Service Arena”, A Portrait of the American Jewish Community, ed. Norman Linzer, David J. Schnall and Jerome A. Chanes (Westport CT: Praeger Publishers, 1998), 50

3. https://www.hias.org/mission-and-values, accessed 12/28/16