HIAS and the various chroniclers of HIAS have used many dates as the year HIAS was founded. We believe these early dates, in particular 1870-1884, refer to organizations with similar names and missions as HIAS, but which were not true predecessors of HIAS.


Hebrew Sheltering House Association established. Originally called Hachnosas Orchim, the organization seems also to have gone by the name Hebrew Sheltering Home, adopting the name “Hebrew Sheltering House Association” in 1907. (Sometimes referred to as “Hebrew Sheltering House Association and Home for the Aged”).


The Woman’s Auxiliary is founded by Rose N. Lesser. An auxiliary organization of the Hebrew Sheltering House Association, it was renamed “the Rose N. Lesser Auxiliary,” after its founder’s death in 1908. 


Ellis Island becomes official New York City control station for immigration.


Max Meyerson

Max Meyerson serves as President of HIAS (1902-1909). On December 3, 1902, a mutual aid society (landsmanshaften), known as the “Voliner Zhitomirer Aid Society,” was organized in the store of Max Meyerson. The name was soon changed to Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, known as HIAS, and absorbed two similar organizations: the Kamenetzer Society and the congregation Nusach Haari.


HIAS establishes bureau on Ellis Island.


Samuel Mason becomes first General Manager of HIAS, continues in the role after the 1909 merger, and serves until circa 1914-1919, when he becomes a director of HIAS.


Leon Sanders

On March 31, 1909 the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society merges with the Hebrew Sheltering House Association, calling itself the “Hebrew Sheltering and Immigration Aid Society,” though its acronym remains “HIAS.” Leon Sanders serves as President of HIAS (1909-1916).


The Hebrew Sheltering House League, an auxiliary organization of HIAS, is founded. CHIAS opens a kosher kitchen on Ellis Island.


HIAS opens a San Francisco office at 149 Eddy Street.


HIAS sets up permanent office in Washington, DC. In a two-year process, HIAS begins to absorb related immigrant-aid societies in Baltimore, Boston, and Philadelphia; including The Philadelphia Society, and the Association for the Protection of Jewish Immigrants.


I. Irving Lipsitch is appointed Acting General Manager of HIAS.


Jacob R. Fain is Acting General Manager of HIAS (1916-1917).


John L. Bernstein

John L. Bernstein serves as President of HIAS (1917-1925).


HIAS opens a Chicago branch. Jacob R. Fain is General Manager of HIAS (1919-1920). Chief Clerk Isaac L. Asofsky is appointed Assistant General Manager, 1920.


Emigdirect founded. HIAS buys the former Astor Library on Lafayette Street.


HIAS suspends most of its European offices, with the exceptions of those in Warsaw, one office in Romania, and one in Kovno, Lithuania.


HIAS Immigrant Bank established.


Isaac L. Asofsky is appointed General Manager of HIAS.


Abraham Herman

Abraham Herman serves as President of HIAS (1926-1947).


In Paris, HIAS joins forces with the Jewish Colonization Association (styled both “ICA” and “JCA”), and the United Jewish Emigration Committee of Europe, known as Emigdirect, to form HICEM. HICEM effectively became the international arm of HIAS, especially after Emigdirect dropped out in 1934 and the ICA was restricted to using its funds exclusively in Britain (around the same time). HIAS, as HICEM, worked throughout the 1930s and early 1940s to rescue European Jews.


National Coordinating Committed is formed as umbrella organization coordinating the work of agencies providing aid to immigrants. Evolves into National Refugee Service in 1939.


Isaac L. Asofsky’s title is changed from “General Manager” to “Executive Director.”


World War II begins. The National Refugee Service is established in New York as successor to the National Coordinating Committee to help European refugees fleeing Nazi persecution. HICEM establishes an office in Brussels, called BEL-HICEM or “Belhicem.”


HIAS-ICA Emigration Association (what remained of HICEM in Paris) is dissolved by the Vichy government, and reestablished as an American organization on June 30.


November, after the end of World War II, HICEM is dissolved and replaced by HIAS-only offices, HIAS-Europe and HIAS-France.


Samuel A. Telsey

Samuel A. Telsey serves as President of HIAS (1946-1952). United Service for New Americans (USNA) formed from merger of the National Refugee Service with the Service to Foreign Born of the National Council of Jewish Women.


HIAS and the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) form the Displaced Persons Coordinating Committee in cooperation with the United Service for New Americans.


Ben Touster

Ben Touster serves as President of HIAS (1952-1956). Isaac L. Asofsky announces his retirement and Maurice Eigen is appointed Acting Executive Director of HIAS.


Arthur T. Jacobs is appointed Acting Executive Director of HIAS.


HIAS lays the cornerstone for what will become HIAS House in the Negev (alternatively referred to as the “Beersheba Hostel”) at the request of the Israeli government, specifically for housing scientific and technical workers to help develop the Negev region. On August 24, 1954, HIAS merges with the United Service for New Americans (USNA) and the Migration Department of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee to form the United HIAS Service (UHS). Arthur Greenleigh is appointed Executive Director of HIAS.


HIAS opens offices in Casablanca and Tangier.


James P. Rice with President Lyndon B. Johnson
Murray I. Gurfein

James P. Rice is appointed Executive Director of HIAS; Murray I. Gurfein serves as President. As the Hungarian Revolution and the Suez Crisis (1956-1957) create their own refugee crises, HIAS works as part of the President’s Committee for Hungarian Refugee Relief, and ferries Jews out of Egypt. 


Camp Foehrenwald, the last Jewish Displaced Persons Camp in Germany, closes. Abner Bregner is elected President of HIAS and serves until his death in June of this year.


Carlos L. Israels serves as President of HIAS (1958-1960).


On January 1, 1959, Cuban rebels oust Fulgencio Batista. In response, many Cuban Jews emigrate to the USA. HIAS closes its offices in Tangier and Casablanca after the Moroccan government refuses to recognize legal existence of HIAS under Moroccan law.


Murray I. Gurfein serves a second term as President of HIAS (1960-1967).


Morocco relaxes laws prohibiting emigration to Israel. President Kennedy establishes the Cuban Refugee Program, in which HIAS is heavily involved.


Algerian independence leads to large flood of Jewish refugees (90% of its Jewish population leaves); HIAS assists with their immigration.


Executive Vice-President James P. Rice meets with Lyndon Johnson and other Jewish leaders at the White House, circa 1964-1965.


October 3, 1965, President Johnson signs Public Law 86-236, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, also known as the Hart-Celler Act, which HIAS had lobbied for and which greatly affected their aid activities. HIAS sells HIAS House to the Institute for Higher Learning in the Negev, run by the city of Beersheba.


Gaynor I. Jacobson is appointed Executive Vice President (new title for Executive Director) of HIAS.


Carlos L. Israels

Carlos L. Israels serves a second term as President of HIAS (1967-1969). In the aftermath of the Six-Day War, the situation for Jews in the Middle East and North Africa is critical. In Egypt, all male Jews aged 16 and older are interned. HIAS takes an interest in securing their freedom and assisting their emigration. Meanwhile, Jewish emigration from Russia increases after Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin allows it in a speech on December 3, 1966; and Vietnamese refugees become an interest to American Council for Voluntary Agencies for Foreign Service (ACVA, of which HIAS is a member) and the JDC.


Emigration from Poland increases after a spike in anti-Semitic attacks and policies, mostly in reaction to the Six-Day War. Known simply as “March 1968,” the government crackdown scapegoated Polish Jews and was officially “anti-Zionist,” but de facto anti-Semitic, in implementation.


Harold Friedman serves as President of HIAS (1969-1973).



At the request of the Department of State, HIAS helps evacuate Asian (mostly Indian) and Asian-Ugandan people from Uganda after President Idi Amin ordered the expulsion of the country’s Asian minority (approximately 80,000 people).


Carl Glick serves as President of HIAS (1973-1979). The 1973 Arab–Israeli War. Emigration from Syria increases.


Organization’s name is changed from United HIAS Service, Inc. to HIAS, Inc. From 1975-1979, acting on the request of the US government, HIAS helps resettle thousands of Indochinese refugees, including the “boat people” of Vietnam, through the cooperation of Jewish Family Services across the US.


Edwin Shapiro

Edwin Shapiro serves as President of HIAS (1979-1984).


Leonard Seidenman is appointed Executive Vice President of HIAS.


HIAS begins to assist US and Israeli forces in bringing Ethiopian Jews (Beta Israel) out of Africa and resettling them in Israel, culminating in Operation Moses (November 1984 to January 1985) and Operation Joshua (March 1985). HIAS also begins working with Iranian Jewish refugees.



Karl D. Zukerman is appointed Executive Vice President of HIAS; Robert L. Israeloff serves as President (1984-1988)


Filming of HIAS documentary, “To Redeem the Captive … the Story of HIAS,” begins, is completed in 1988.


Ben Zion Leuchter

Ben Zion Leuchter serves as President of HIAS (1988-1992).


Martin A. Wenick (left)

Martin A. Wenick is appointed Executive Vice President of HIAS; Martin Kesselhaut serves as President (1992-1995).



January 1, 1994, HIAS takes over the function of the Refugee Resettlement department of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds, including the management and administration of federal grants.


Norman D. Tilles

Norman D. Tilles serves as President of HIAS (1995-1998).


Leonard Glickman is appointed Executive Vice President of HIAS. His title becomes President and CEO in 2001. Neil Greenbaum serves as President of HIAS (1998-2003). His title becomes Chair of the Board in 2001.



Jerome S. Teller serves as Chair of HIAS board (2004-2007).


Neil Greenbaum is appointed President and CEO (2005-2006).


Gideon Aronoff is appointed President and CEO (2006-2012).


Michael Rukin serves as Chair of HIAS board (2008-2010).


Marc Silberberg serves as Chair of HIAS board (2010-2013).


Mark Hetfield is appointed Interim President and CEO; assumes title officially soon thereafter (2012-present).


Dale M. Schwartz serves as Chair of HIAS board (2013-2016).


Diane F. Lob serves as Chair of HIAS board (2016-present).