HIAS Timeline Note 1870

HIAS Timeline Note 1870

1870, 1880-1882, 1884: In its official publications and annual reports, at least going back to the 1948 annual report, HIAS has given several different dates for its founding. According to our research in the HIAS records held at the American Jewish Historical Society, as well as the earlier records held by YIVO, the organization called "Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society" (HIAS) was founded in 1902.

In 1909, HIAS merged with the Hebrew Sheltering House Association (HSHA), which had been founded in 1889. As far as we can tell, HSHA is the only organization that clearly merged with HIAS and can be considered a predecessor organization.

These are the dates we feel most certain about, and which are corroborated by several secondary sources. The belief that HIAS's founding dates might be 1880, 1881, or 1882, is based on a dubious lineage linking HIAS to similar organizations established in the 1870s and early 1880s. Mark Wischnitzer chronicles this history in his book Visas to Freedom: the History of HIAS, though with some inconsistencies.

These early organizations are, in brief, the first Hebrew Emigrant Aid Society (est. 1870), Russian Emigrant Relief Committee (est. 1881), the second Hebrew Emigrant Aid Society (formed out of the Russian Emigrant Relief Committee that same year), and the Hebrew Emigrant Auxiliary Society (which Wischnitzer calls "the nearest approach to a parent organization of HIAS," established in 1882). The founding date of 1884 corresponds to no known organization that we have been able to discover.

We see HIAS adopt 1884 as their founding date starting in the 1950s, but it is not clear where it came from. The primary sources are scarce and contradictory, and the secondary sources are sometimes inconsistent or poorly referenced. However, what is clear is that the date of 1902 is the founding of the organization named "Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society." We are also fairly confident that 1889 is the date for the founding of the Hebrew Sheltering House Association, the only organization to have a direct relationship with HIAS, merging with HIAS in 1909.

Note researched and written by Lawrence Giffin and Susan Woodland, 2017