HIAS and refugees

HIAS and refugees

In “What makes an issue a Jewish issue?” (June 29) Jared Silverman cites HIAS, founded over a century ago as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, as an example of a Jewish organization that, by concerning itself with assisting all refugees, has diverged from its mission “to protect and further the interests of the Jewish community.”

No other people has endured more forced displacement over time than the Jewish people. The 1951 international Refugee Convention was developed to ensure that never again would a people be trapped inside of a genocide the way that the Jewish people were during the 1930s and ’40s. In the Torah, God commands the Jewish people no less than 36 times to welcome the stranger and to love the stranger as themselves, for we were once strangers in the land of Egypt. 

With Jewish history being the history of a refugee people, stepping up and speaking out for the rights of all refugees is protecting and furthering the interests of the Jewish community. HIAS was indeed founded to welcome refugees because they were Jewish, but today HIAS welcomes refugees because we are Jewish. 

Mark Hetfield
President and CEO, HIAS

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