Personal Stories

León Rodríguez: Welcoming Refugees is More Than Just a Humanitarian Obligation

Jun 20, 2016

Before he became Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at the Department of Homeland Security, León Rodríguez was the grandchild of Jews who fled anti-semitism in Poland and Turkey. “At the end of the day, refugees and refugee families are just like us, except in much more difficult situations,” Rodríguez says in an exclusive video interview.

In New York, Musicians Gather for World Refugee Day Tribute

Jun 14, 2016

Yankovskaya, who was once a refugee herself, started the Refugee Orchestra Project to showcase “the contribution that those who have come to this country seeking a better life have made.” Many of the musicians and singers are also refugees, like acclaimed soprano Lubana Al Quntar who hails from Syria.

Ben Saw Refugees on TV and Wanted to Help. What He Learned Next Changed Everything.

May 31, 2016

Svitavsky immigrated from St. Petersburg, Russia with her family in 1977. Like many refugees fleeing the Soviet Union at that time, they came with help from HIAS. Yet somehow the topic never came up with her children, who had no idea about their mother’s own refugee story until her son Ben brought up the topic himself.

From Refugee to Lawyer, Kurt Shaffert Fled WWII and Found His American Dream

May 23, 2016

Born in Vienna in 1929 to a Jewish family, Kurt Shaffert and his family fled to America when he was only 10 years old. “When they arrived in New York, they really had nothing,” said Robin Shaffert, Kurt’s daughter. “He never forgot what that was like–and he never forgot the help that his family got from HIAS.”

Step 1: Flee Anti-Semitism. Step 2: Get Famous. Step 3: Change the World.

May 10, 2016

Before she was the face of AT&T and the founder of Can’t Do Nothing, a non-profit dedicated to getting people engaged with the Syrian refugee crisis, Milana Vayntrub was a refugee herself. She explains why she can’t do nothing, and you shouldn’t either.

On Being a Refugee, Then Helping Others: Repair the World Interviews Zhanna Veyts

Apr 21, 2016

In 1989, Veyts and her parents left the Soviet Union for America with the help of HIAS. Today, Veyts works for HIAS supporting refugees going through the same transitions she went through nearly 30 years ago. Repair the World recently spoke to Veyts to find out how her experience shapes her work.

Young Rwandan Finds a New Start in South Portland

Apr 13, 2016

After finishing at Southern Maine Community College, Yves plans to transfer to the University of Southern Maine to complete his Bachelor’s degree. Where does he find the time to study between two jobs and his classes? “It's hard, but I try.”

Slow Motion Crisis: Yaya's Story

Apr 11, 2016

Hawaye Djouma Yaya was born in Kadamoule, Sudan in 1940. But for the last decade she has called Bredjing refugee camp her home. "We have no one to provide for us and we are at the mercy of God," she tells HIAS.

Aviva’s Bake Sale

Feb 08, 2016

"Even though I am only 9 years old, unfortunately I know about not such great things happening in the world. My parents told me about the war in Syria and about how there are many refugees not just coming from there. I did some research and really wanted to help," Aviva wrote.

Guest Post: My Zayda, the Refugee.

Jan 28, 2016

My Zayda, Manfred, became a refugee at age six when the Nazis forced him, his family, and thousands of other Polish Jews out of Germany in the fall of 1938. For the last 77 years of his life, Zayda has made it his mission to fight against hatred and teach all of us the danger of being a bystander.