HIAS is the world’s oldest refugee protection agency, fulfilling Jewish values and tradition by protecting refugees and displaced persons of all faiths and ethnicities. As the American Jewish community’s global refugee assistance organization, HIAS has the historic responsibility to ensure that the Jewish community is engaged in and committed to protecting all refugees.
Today, most refugees aren't Jewish, but HIAS still sees "welcoming the stranger" as a Jewish issue. Our mission remains to provide vital services to refugees and asylum seekers around the world and advocate for their fundamental rights so they can rebuild their lives. As we like to say, "We used to help refugees because they were Jewish; now we help refugees because we are Jewish."
But for those Jews who face persecution, discrimination, or violations of religious freedom and whose safety and security is at risk, HIAS is still there to help. Under the Lautenberg Amendment, which originally helped to resettle thousands of Jews from the former Soviet Union, HIAS can continue to help Jews and persecuted religious minorities in other countries.
In addition to Jewish refugees, there are also Jews living in parts of the world who, while they may not meet the legal definition of "refugee," seek to leave countries plagued by anti-Semitism for places where they can live openly, proudly and safely as Jews. In cases where Jews wish to leave a hostile or unsafe environment, HIAS, working closely with our colleagues in other Jewish organizations in these affected Jewish communities, dedicates resources and expertise to provide information, advocacy, and assistance for viable migration options to the United States and other welcoming communities.
HIAS is always “on call” to Jewish communities in the United States and around the world who request our expert counsel to rescue, receive, and welcome Jewish newcomers in search of a haven from anti-Semitism. In addition, HIAS is committed to working with Jewish communities to help welcome refugees of all religions and ethnicities fleeing xenophobia and racism, and engaging American Jewish communities to promote refugee protection.
HIAS has helped generations of Jews facing violence because of who they were, and HIAS remains committed to helping Jewish refugees anywhere in the world. As the international refugee agency of the American Jewish community, HIAS recalls the wisdom of Hillel: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?" Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14