Biblical commandment


As a former Soviet refusenik helped into a new life in America by HIAS, I am compelled to take issue with your July 25 editorial “HIAS in search of a mission.”

You write, “According to reports from HIAS, the agency is planning to take its resettlement expertise and infrastructure across the ocean.” In fact, HIAS has already been aiding refugees overseas for more than a decade. Under contract from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the U.S. government, HIAS assists refugees in Africa, Latin America, and Europe offering legal, educational and psychological help to those fleeing persecution.

Most recently, HIAS has been lending its expertise to the Israeli government, helping it care for and process the claims of tens of thousands of asylum seekers from Sudan, Eritrea and elsewhere in Africa.

Thus HIAS is not “searching for a mission.” It is fulfilling the biblical commandment to “Love the stranger as thyself, for you were once strangers in the Land of Egypt.” I currently serve on the HIAS board. I felt proud recently hearing the African managers of HIAS offices in Chad, Kenya, and Uganda say it’s important to work with a Jewish organization because “Jews know what it means to be a refugee.”  While you write that HIAS was founded “at the turn of the 20th century,” its history in fact dates back to 1883.


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