Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society Boston Port Records
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).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org with the box and folder numbers, followed by the name as it’s listed, and the correction you suggest.
- undated, 1886-1977
- Majority of material found within 1938-1954
Language of Materials
The collection is in English, Hebrew, German, Polish, French, Yiddish, and Russian.
This collection is open for researcher use. Please contact us to request access or to make an appointment to view this collection at email@example.com.
There may be some restrictions on the use of this collection. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 pogroms 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 affidavits 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.
- 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.
- Assassination of Tsar Alexander II; anti-Semitism increases exponentially in Russia. Jewish immigration to the United States begins in earnest.
- Shelter on Lower East Side becomes the Hebrew Sheltering House Association.
- Jewish residents of Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kiev are expelled and many immigrate to the United States.
- HIAS establishes a bureau on Ellis Island. Boston HIAS chartered.
- The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society merges with the Hebrew Sheltering House Association and together became known as HIAS.
- 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).
- Boston HIAS merges with the national HIAS office.
- A literacy test is legislated, making it more difficult for immigrants to settle in the United States.
- HIAS in New York purchases the former Astor Library on Lafayette Street to serve as a shelter.
- Quota legislation is passed in the United States, restricting the number of immigrants of each nationality allowed into the country.
- Abraham Alpert, HIAS Education Director, dies.
- Helen Alpert, Abraham Alpert’s daughter, becomes Executive Director of Boston HIAS.
- McCarran-Walter Act is passed.
- HIAS focuses efforts on rescuing Jews from Soviet invaded Hungary and evacuates the Jewish community of Egypt following their expulsion from that country.
- HIAS works to rescue Cuban Jews during the Cuban revolution.
- HIAS is instrumental in the passage of immigration legislation that replaces the National Origins Quota.
- Boston HIAS office is dissolved.
- Materials from the collection.
- Helen, Alpert. "50 Years of Aid to Immigrants." Jewish Advocate [Boston] 04 29 1954, n. pag. Web. 21 Dec. 2012. ".
- Timeline/History." Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. HIAS, n.d. Web. 21 Dec 2012. http://www.hias.org/en/pages/timelinehistory>
124.5 linear feet (243 manuscript boxes and 3 oversized boxes)
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.
Located in Boston, Mass.
Donated by Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) Boston Board of Directors and Executive Director Helen Alpert in 1977. Badge donated by Norman Finkelstein in 2018.
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
- Alpert, Abraham
- Bailen, Samuel L.
- Bloomfield, Meyer
- Boston (Mass.)
- Business records
- Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston
- Emigration and immigration
- Emigration and immigration -- Europe -- History
- Emigration and immigration -- Government policy
- Emigration and immigration law -- United States
- Legal documents
- Minutes (administrative records)
- Pill, Hyman
- Poorvu, Harris
- World War, 1914-1918
- World War, 1939-1945
- Wyzanski, Max
- Guide to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society Boston Port Records, I-96
- 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
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script