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Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society Boston Port Records

 Collection
Identifier: I-96

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains individual case files and arrival cards for immigrants that passed through the Port of Boston and required assistance from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS); photographs; scrapbooks; correspondence between staff, sponsors, immigrants and officials; meeting minutes; ship manifests; tracer correspondence, and passenger lists. The majority of the collection is not restricted but more recent case files are restricted (from 1960 on), and require advance permission by the archivist of the Jewish Heritage Center. Some materials may be restricted due to fragility (however, digital copies can be made available).

These records are currently being microfilmed; this microfilm is available for use at AJHS in New York. To obtain the latest information on what has been microfilmed, contact reference@ajhsboston.org.

A note about the list of individual case files: when available, various spellings of first names and surnames have been included in the box list. These are often in parentheses () following what HIAS used as the main spelling of names. Maiden names for women are in parentheses () following their first name, or in many cases, variant spellings of their first names. Where individual letters mark the only difference, these are identified with parentheses within the name itself (ex: Wolf(e)). Finally, some folders have names listed but do not have any contents. These folders are noted on the box list. We have made every attempt to list names correctly, but if you believe we have made an error, please email jhcreference@nehgs.org with the box and folder numbers, followed by the name as it’s listed, and the correction you suggest.

Dates

  • undated, 1886-1977
  • Majority of material found within 1938-1954

Creator

Language of Materials

The collection is in English, Hebrew, German, Polish, French, Yiddish, and Russian.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for researcher use. Please contact us to request access or to make an appointment to view this collection at jhcreference@nehgs.org.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of this collection. For more information contact jhcreference@nehgs.org.

Historical Note

The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) was founded in New York City in the 1880s by the Russian Jewish community of New York in response to the influx of Russian Jewish immigrants fleeing the pograms in the Pale of Settlement in Russia and Eastern Europe. In 1889, a shelter which was used to house many of the immigrants adopted the name “Hebrew Sheltering House Association.” This organization merged with HIAS in 1909 and by 1914, had branches operating in Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

The Boston office of HIAS was chartered in 1904 under the leadership of Harris Poorvu, Hyman Pill, Abraham Alpert, Meyer Bloomfield, Max Wyzanski and Samuel L. Bailen. HIAS operated autonomously from the national office in New York, even after their merger in 1916. Between 1914 and 1916, the Boston HIAS was affiliated with the Federated Jewish Charities (now Combined Jewish Philanthropies). In 1948, HIAS became a member of the Combined Jewish Appeal, another organization that created the current Combined Jewish Philanthropies. Poorvu served as president for twenty years before becoming treasurer. Abraham Alpert was the educational director of HIAS until his death in 1939. Alpert’s daughter, Helen, became the long-standing executive director of the Boston HIAS office in 1940.

HIAS ensured that Jewish immigrants had access to holiday and religious services and kosher food; provided shelter and social services; and assisted immigrants with finding employment and schools, often on short notice. After World War I, HIAS worked with individuals to locate displaced families, replace legal documents, and develop an educational program to help immigrants become naturalized citizens. During World War II, immigration was at the forefront of the HIAS mission as Jews attempted to leave Europe for the United States or Palestine. HIAS arranged for sponsors and worked continuously to help the many Jews who wrote to them for help, but immigration quotas made it extremely difficult to help, even when HIAS procured affadavits of sponsorship from relatives.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the Boston HIAS office assisted non-Jewish immigrants from Europe, China, and the Middle East. The Boston HIAS office dissolved in the late 1970s, but the national office in New York remains an active force today.

Chronology

1880s
Pogroms in the Jewish Pale of Settlement in Russia and Eastern Europe.
Russian Jewish community in New York City forms the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society to help new arrivals to the city.
1881
Assassination of Tsar Alexander II; anti-Semitism increases exponentially in Russia. Jewish immigration to the United States begins in earnest.
1889
Shelter on Lower East Side becomes the Hebrew Sheltering House Association.
1891
Jewish residents of Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kiev are expelled and many immigrate to the United States.
1904
HIAS establishes a bureau on Ellis Island. Boston HIAS chartered.
1909
The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society merges with the Hebrew Sheltering House Association and together became known as HIAS.
1914
By this year, HIAS established branches in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston and an office in Washington, D.C.
The Boston HIAS affiliates itself with the Federated Jewish Charities (Combined Jewish Philanthropies).
1916
Boston HIAS merges with the national HIAS office.
1917
A literacy test is legislated, making it more difficult for immigrants to settle in the United States.
1921
HIAS in New York purchases the former Astor Library on Lafayette Street to serve as a shelter.
1921-1924
Quota legislation is passed in the United States, restricting the number of immigrants of each nationality allowed into the country.
1939
Abraham Alpert, HIAS Education Director, dies.
1940
Helen Alpert, Abraham Alpert’s daughter, becomes Executive Director of Boston HIAS.
1952
McCarran-Walter Act is passed.
1956
HIAS focuses efforts on rescuing Jews from Soviet invaded Hungary and evacuates the Jewish community of Egypt following their expulsion from that country.
1959
HIAS works to rescue Cuban Jews during the Cuban revolution.
1965
HIAS is instrumental in the passage of immigration legislation that replaces the National Origins Quota.
1970s
Boston HIAS office is dissolved.

References

  1. Materials from the collection.
  2. Helen, Alpert. "50 Years of Aid to Immigrants." Jewish Advocate [Boston] 04 29 1954, n. pag. Web. 21 Dec. 2012. ".
  3. Timeline/History." Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. HIAS, n.d. Web. 21 Dec 2012. http://www.hias.org/en/pages/timelinehistory>

Extent

124.5 linear feet (243 manuscript boxes and 3 oversized boxes)

Overview

The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) was founded in New York City in the 1880s by the Russian Jewish community of New York in response to the influx of Russian Jewish immigrants fleeing the pograms in the Pale of Settlement in Russia and Eastern Europe. In 1889, a shelter which was used to house many of the immigrants adopted the name “Hebrew Sheltering House Association.” This organization merged with HIAS in 1909 and by 1914, had branches operating in Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The Boston office of HIAS was chartered in 1904 under the leadership of Harris Poorvu, Hyman Pill, Abraham Alpert, Meyer Bloomfield, Max Wyzanski and Samuel L. Bailen. The Boston HIAS operated autonomously from the national office in New York, even after their merger in 1916. HIAS ensured that Jewish immigrants had access to holiday and religious services and kosher food; provided shelter and social services; and assisted immigrants with finding employment and schools, often on short notice. This collection contains the individual case files of immigrants who received assistance from the Boston office of HIAS, ship manifests, tracer correspondence, scrapbooks, passenger lists and photographs. Some later individual case files remain restricted (those dated after 1960) and researchers will require permission from the archivist of Jewish Heritage Center in order to view them.

Physical Location

Located in Boston, Mass.

Acquisition Information

Acquisition information is unknown.

Processing Information

Processed by Judith Garner, Stephanie Call, Myrto Barth, Richard Rosen, Benjamin Owen, Kelsey Sawyer, Mary Chen, Rebecca Simon, Lael Dalal, Sarah Amtower, Jessie Xu, Sarah Raykhtsaum, and Leah Ellenbogen
Title
Guide to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society Boston Port Records, I-96
Author
Processed by Judith Garner, Stephanie Call, Myrto Barth, Richard Rosen, Benjamin Owen, Kelsey Sawyer, Mary Chen, Rebecca Simon, Lael Dalal, Sarah Amtower, Jessie Xu, Sarah Raykhtsaum, and Leah Ellenbogen
Date
2013

Repository Details

Part of the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at New England Historic Genealogical Society Repository

Contact:
99-101 Newbury Street
Boston MA 02116 United States
617-226-1245