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Collection Guide: Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)

Overview of the individual archival collections and library materials found at the Center relating to the HIAS organization and their activities.

Soviet Jews in the Community (Box 36, Folder 17, Image 1)

Organization Timeline


  • Organization is founded with a mission to assist Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe.


  • 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 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.


  • 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).


  • Circa 1910, HIAS opens kosher kitchen on Ellis Island.
  • Hebrew Sheltering House League is founded, an auxiliary organization of HIAS.


  • HIAS opens an office in San Francisco at 149 Eddy Street.


  • HIAS sets up permanent office in Washington, DC.
  • From 1913-1915, HIAS absorbs related immigrant-aid societies in Baltimore, Boston and Philadelphia. The Philadelphia society, the Association for the Protection of Jewish Immigrants, had incorporated on September 21, 1884, and joins HIAS in 1913.


  • July 28, 1914 to November 11, 1918, World War I.
  • I. Irving Lipsitch is appointed Acting General Manager of HIAS.


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


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


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


  • Emigdirect founded.
  • HIAS buys 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 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."


  • National Refugee Service established in New York as successor to the National Coordinating Committee, to help refugees from Europe who were fleeing Nazi persecution. Evolves into United Service for New Americans in 1946.
  • World War II (1939-1945).
  • 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 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 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.
  • 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 appointed Executive Director of HIAS.


  • HIAS opens offices in Casablanca and Tangier.


  • Murray I. Gurfein serves as President of HIAS (1956-1957).
  • Suez Crisis. HIAS begins ferrying Jews out of Egypt (1956-1957).
  • James P. Rice is appointed Executive Director of HIAS.
  • HIAS assisted Jews fleeing the Soviet invasion of Hungary and evacuated the Jewish community of Egypt after their expulsion during the Sinai Campaign.


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


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


  • HIAS celebrates its 75th anniversary (citing its beginning as the Hebrew Sheltering and Immigration Aid Society in 1884; see note above).
  • January 1, 1959, Cuban rebels oust Fulgencio Batista; Jews begin emigrating, mainly to the USA
  • HIAS set up operations in Miami to rescue the Jews fleeing Cuba’s revolution.
  • HIAS closes offices in Tangier and Casablanca after 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).


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


  • 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.


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


  • HIAS came to the aid of Czechoslovakia's Jews after the suppression of "Prague Spring" and to Poland's Jews after pogroms racked that country.


  • 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.


  • Name is changed from United HIAS Service, Inc. to HIAS, Inc.
  • Following the fall of Saigon, the State Department requested HIAS’ assistance with the resettlement of Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians. That year, HIAS found new homes for 3,600 in 150 communities in 38 states.  While not the first time HIAS had assisted in the resettlement of non-Jews, the organization’s assistance with this large-scale refugee crisis garnered a special thank you from President Gerald Ford. HIAS continued to assist refugees from Southeast Asia through 1979.


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


  • Leonard Seidenman is appointed Executive Vice President of HIAS.


  • HIAS begins assisting Iranian Jewish refugees.
  • 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).


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


  • Filming of HIAS documentary, "To Redeem the Captive ... the Story of HIAS," completed in 1988.


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


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


  • 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 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).