New Immigrant Guide to New York—Researched, Written, and Designed by Young Immigrants

Posted on Fri, Oct 27, 2006 at 13:20 pm

A Special Party to be Held Nov. 9

(New York City)- Last year, when Norman Rabinovich discovered his connection to HIAS – the agency that had helped his family migrate to America from Latvia in 1981, when he was only 3 and a half – he knew he had to become involved with the venerable, 125-year-old organization.

The graphic designer, who now lives in the East Village, contributed his design skills to the NYC Immigrant Guide 2006/7 – a book developed by young professionals like him to help newcomers navigate America’s largest city. The guide is being distributed to hundreds of Jewish immigrants to the New York region and to HIAS offices around the world and includes broad content that ranges from transportation, education, consulate and government agencies to social activities, Jewish life, and children's activities.

“Those of us who have gone through the experience of immigration can empathize with the plight of immigrants,” says Rabinovich. “We understand how hard it can be to adjust to new surroundings, let alone a new country with a new language and culture. That’s why this guide book was a perfect project for me to become involved with.”

Rabinovich’s discovery of his connection to HIAS came one night at a Shabbat dinner with friends. A conversation arose at the dinner table initiated by two women who were volunteering for an organization that had been helping world Jewry for decades – HIAS. They were both members of the HIAS Young Leaders group.

“To me this was such a coincidence since I, a Latvian Jew, was brought to America in 1981 by the help of a similar organization whose name eluded me,” Rabinovich recalls. “Out of curiosity, I ringed my father in California to confirm the name of that particular organization. He told me that if it weren’t for an organization by the name of ‘HIAS’, we would not have been able to leave the former Soviet Union.”

Rabinovich says he was overcome with emotion when he learned it was the very same organization. He decided then to become one of the Young Leaders, a group of professionals and students in their 20s and 30s from as far away as Iran and the former Soviet Union and as nearby as the Americas who create innovative programs to assist immigrants and refugees.

Amy Greenstein, who manages HIAS’ three Young Leaders chapters – New York, Washington, Los Angeles – explains that when the New York group researched and developed the guide, the group included information that would have been helpful for them when they took their first steps in the U.S.

The design and fundraising for the production costs were done by Rabinovich, who reached out to family and friends, many of them also former HIAS clients. “They readily donated money because they understood from first-hand experience the need for something like this,” says Greenstein. “This project brought together education, outreach, community service and fundraising to create an original product to serve the immigrant community.” Most of the photography in the guide was donated by Joshua Strauss, an immigrant himself (from Israel).

A Launch Party for the NYC Immigrant Guide 2006/7 is scheduled for Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. at 5IN1, an art space that Rabinovich created at 60 N. 6 th Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The event is free and will also include a focus on other works of Mr. Strauss.

For more information, contact Amy Greenstein, 212-613-1364, or Adi Beinhert, 212-613-1303.