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Blankets, Baked Goods, and Bands: Helping HIAS Takes Many Forms


Join the Jewish response to the refugee crisis.



Nov 19, 2018

Blog Post

Sharon Samber,

Welcome blankets for refugees will be distributed at HIAS affiliates.

(courtesy of the Welcome Blanket Project)

To say there have been many good wishes to HIAS over the last few weeks since the tragedy of the Pittsburgh shooting would be an understatement. The outpouring of support has been overwhelming.

Some of those wishes have taken the form of donations–hundreds of people started personal fundraisers, while others just wanted to share personal stories that connected their families to HIAS.

There have also been a number of people and organizations who have felt compelled to try something different, often something creative, to express how they feel or the work that they do. They want to create a message of hope and solidarity, whether it’s through art, or food or music, or something even more unusual.

The examples below are simply meant to give an idea of the varied kinds of support that HIAS has received. They show the best in human nature, the ways people look to make some good out of a disaster and build a new sense of purpose.

The Welcome Blanket Project calls itself a national craftivist project, as it “reconceptualizes” President Trump's 2000-mile concrete border wall into 2000 miles of yarn knitted into welcome blankets for new immigrants and refugees to the U.S. Welcome Blanket asks participants to knit/crochet/quilt/sew welcome blankets and write their family's own immigration stories with words of welcome in accompanying notes. The blankets are displayed in art exhibits and then are distributed to immigrants/refugees through resettlement agencies. Hadassah Margolis, the group’s COO, told HIAS of plans to send blankets to HIAS resettlement partners across the country, and already 300 blankets have been requested.

All the profits from the specially designed necklace will go to HIAS.

(courtesy of Gracie Silverstein)

“Stronger Than Hate” quickly became the slogan used to show the unity of Pittsburgh and it began to appear everywhere on signs and t-shirts. One local teenager, Gracie Silverstein, had the idea to create necklaces and make a wearable statement of change. In one social media post, the Eagleville high school senior explained: “We must come together and end gun violence. Why not start by wearing a change agent around our neck. Spread love, not hate.” She used the Hebrew words chazak mesinah and in one week received more than 1,000 orders. The necklace is now available in English as well, and Silverstein is donating all of the profits to HIAS.

Many local Pittsburgh establishments such as City Books, a bookstore on the city’s North Side, got involved. Arlan Hess, the store owner, invited a dozen local writers and musicians to come to a “Tree of Life Memorial Reading,” and HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield made a surprise appearance. Members of the Pittsburgh Whiskey Friends will soon host a podcast and tasting panel fundraiser in support of HIAS.

In an unusual charity campaign, the comedian Hasan Minhaj and Comedy Central are auctioning off pairs of specially made sneakers to promote a new show. The proceeds from each $10 donation will go to benefit HIAS.


A number of bands have held fundraisers and the band TWIABP&IANLATD is giving proceeds from the sale of select digital albums to HIAS. At the Belvederes Ultra-Dive bar in Lawrenceville, Pa., DJ Thermos and Sean MC recently hosted a 90s Nite fundraiser for HIAS, donating half the cover charges. Their message for HIAS is a fitting message for all the ongoing projects:

“May they help millions of immigrants and refugees build a new life in America.”