HIAS, formerly the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, may have been the spark that sent a man who spouted anti-Semitic views storming into a Pittsburgh synagogue killing 11 worshippers.
HIAS, which is based in Silver Springs, Maryland, began in 1881 to help Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe. By 1904, it has set up an office on Ellis Island. During World Wars I and II, HIAS assisted Jewish refugees resettle. It played a role in rescuing Jews from Hungary, Egypt, Cuba, Liberia, Libya, Czechoslovakia, Poland and, more recently, from Iran, Ethiopia and Southeast Asia.
In 1975, the US State Department asked HIAS to resettle 4,600 Vietnamese refugees. In the past decade, HIAS expanded its work to assist non-Jewish refugees from Afghanistan to Haiti to Romania to Ecuador.
Inflamed by rhetoric about refugees, including a caravan of Latin American asylum-seeking refugees plodding their way on foot to the United States, a Pittsburgh man unleashed his fury against a congregation that actively supports the mission and work of HIAS.
In tribute to that tireless work – and in memory of the victims of the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue, we share this animated video that powerfully describes what HIAS does.