Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a charitable organization founded in 1881 in the USA in response to the late 19th and early 20th century Jewish immigration from the Tsarist Russia.

The organization assists in resettlement and provides legal and support services throughout the world.

The only addresses in our address book when we emigrated were those of HIAS in Vienna and Rome (domestic USSR addresses were not allowed so that we would not share our “outside” experiences with our friends and possibly tempt them to follow us).

HIAS had coordinated the details of our schedule out of the country with Soviet authorities so its representatives stood there at the door of our train car when we arrived at the Vienna train station. Without them, we were simply as helpless as blind kittens.

For the almost five months that we waited for the entry visas to the United States, HIAS anticipated and took care of our every need and tried hard to prepare us for our new life. Then, a HIAS Chicago representative met us at the ramp of our plane when it arrived at the O’Hare airport. Together with the Jewish Federation it took over the hand-holding as we were making our first steps in the new world.

For a long time, we were convinced that HIAS had been founded especially to bring over the Soviet Jews. I’m sure that that’s how every group and every person felt that this organization has helped along the way.

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