HIAS Receives $1 Million Gift from Sergey Brin, Co-founder of Google and Former HIAS-assisted Refugee

Posted on Sun, Oct 25, 2009 at 13:17 pm

(New York, NY) – When Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, was seventeen, his family returned to the Soviet Union for a two-week visit. Glasnost had taken hold of the crumbling empire, making Russia a different country than the one the family had fled in 1979 when Sergey was six. Even so, on the second day of the trip, Sergey “got it” and took his father aside, thanking him “for taking us all out of Russia.”

Now, Brin has thanked, HIAS (the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), the agency that assisted the Brin family with their refugee processing and resettlement in the U.S. by donating $1 million to the international migration agency of the American Jewish community. Today is the 30th anniversary of the Brin’s arrival in this country on October 25, 1979.

In doing so, he is supporting HIAS’ 128-year-old mission of rescue and refuge for Jewish and other refugees and migrants. As the oldest refugee agency in the U.S., HIAS has helped generations of families escape violence and repression in their homelands and resettle in the U.S., Israel, and elsewhere. Since its founding in 1881, HIAS has assisted more than 4.5 million refugees and migrants, including the vast majority of American Jewish families.

According to Michael B. Rukin, Chair of HIAS, “As a refugee himself, Sergey Brin knows better than most the value of living freely in a country that allows people to dream and – through vision, creativity and hard work – fulfill those dreams. He and his family were able to build a new life in the United States and, as a result, he was able to create a new industry by changing the way we process and use information. His contributions literally have changed the world.

“We are extremely grateful to Sergey, not only for his trust in this organization and its intrinsic Jewish and human values, but for his leadership in giving back to society, following the highest Jewish tradition of tzedakah (justice or charity). His story perfectly illustrates the contribution that refugees and immigrants have made to this country not only historically, but especially as we explore today’s frontiers. He joins the ranks of numerous other Jewish immigrants to our shores – like Andrew Viterbi, a pioneer in communications theory; Andrew Grove, a principal at Intel; and financier George Soros – who have taken their creative genius and given back to society both in their professional fields and in assuming leadership in creating a kinder, safer world.”

Sergey Brin’s unrestricted gift will strengthen HIAS’ global capacity to aid Jewish and other refugees and migrants – to offer them legal protection, to resettle and integrate into welcoming communities those fleeing persecution, to inspire a new generation to advocate for just and humane immigration legislation, and to reconnect American Jews to their immigrant forbears and migration history. Today HIAS works in partnership with the U.S. government, United Nations, and non-governmental agencies in projects in Africa, where it is the only Jewish agency working on the ground with Darfuri refugees; Latin America; the Middle East; Vienna; Russia; and the U.S. In everything it does, the agency is guided by Jewish values and texts –without regard for the religion, nationality, or ethnic background of its clients.

One of HIAS’ major achievements in the last 40 years was assisting more than 400,000 Jewish refugees to flee the Soviet Union; HIAS currently works closely with Jewish Russian-Americans to integrate them and help them build a stronger civil society. Among HIAS’ latest innovations is myStory, a social networking site where Russian Jewish émigrés can share common immigration experiences and connect with one another. MyStory was the brainchild of Michael and Genia Brin, Sergey’s parents, working closely with the HIAS staff. Genia Brin serves on HIAS’ board of directors.