Since 1950, HIAS' activities have mirrored world events. In 1956, HIAS rescued Jews fleeing the Soviet invasion of Hungary and evacuated the Jewish community of Egypt after their expulsion during the Sinai Campaign. During the Cuban revolution in 1959, HIAS set up operations in Miami to rescue the Jews of Cuba. During the early 1960s, HIAS rescued Jews from Algeria and Libya and arranged with Morocco's King Hassan for the evacuation of his country's huge Jewish community to France and, eventually, Israel.
In 1965, HIAS was instrumental in the passage of an immigration law that finally replaced the National Origins Quota, liberalizing decades of restrictive admissions policies. In 1968, 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.
By the early '70s, the first Jews were coming out of the Soviet Union and HIAS was there to help. In 1975, following the fall of Saigon, HIAS began to work with refugees from Southeast Asia. In 1977, HIAS began working to help evacuate the Jews of Ethiopia, which culminated in several dramatic airlifts to Israel. In 1979, the overthrow of the Shah precipitated a slow but steady trickle of Jews escaping the oppressive theocracy of Iran.
In two modern waves, the Jews of the former Soviet Union have found their way to freedom with the help of HIAS. The first wave peaked in 1979. The second wave, which began in the late '80s, has so far brought more than 140,000 Jews to these shores for reunification with their relatives.
In the 2000s, HIAS has continued its work, helping Jewish and non-Jewish refugees and immigrants from Afghanistan, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Ethiopia, Haiti, Hungary, Iran, Morocco, Poland, Romania, Tunisia, Vietnam, and the successor states to the former Soviet Union.
In 2001, HIAS celebrated its 120th anniversary year, culminating with a "HIAS Day" festival in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, which attracted 45,000 HIAS immigrants and supporters. Special guests included HIAS immigrants Hadassah Lieberman and Olympic gold-medalist Lenny Krayzelburg, and other dignitaries. Two days after the joyful celebration, Al-Qaeda terrorists attacked America, throwing the entire U.S. immigration system into turmoil. HIAS mobilized its network to continue serving refugees, despite extreme delays in the arrival process brought on by increased security measures and the reorganization of the INS into the Department of Homeland Security. In 2003, after the U.S. war against Iraq reached a turning point, HIAS was one of the first humanitarian agencies—and the first Jewish organization—to go into that country to assess the situation for Jews. With the help of HIAS, nine of the 34 remaining Jews were safely flown to Israel.
HIAS recently celebrated 130 years of helping immigrants, refugees, and asylees escape persecution and resettle in safety; reuniting families who have been separated; and helping them build new lives in safety and freedom.