HIAS generated critical headlines earlier this month when Ashley Chteh, a volunteer at HIAS Pennsylvania, was recorded helping to burn an Israeli flag and saying “Down with the Nazi regime.”
The nearly 145-year-old nonprofit founded as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society quickly noted that HIAS Pennsylvania was an independent partner of HIAS. “This person is not and never has been affiliated with HIAS, and is no longer affiliated with HIAS PA,” it stated. “We strongly condemn antisemitism in all its forms. Hate has no place in our world.”
HIAS has been drawing additional criticism, including that it has contributed to rising antisemitism stateside since Hamas’s terror attacks in Israel.
“Sadly, since Oct. 7, HIAS has again failed to prioritize Jewish safety, as HIAS did in decades gone by,” Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, told JNS. “HIAS works to bring Muslims to America, most of whom are Jew-haters and Israel-haters.”
On Oct. 7, HIAS posted: “We are horrified by the attack against civilian populations in Israel on Shemini Atzeret, one of Judaism’s holiest days. Civilians throughout the region are living in fear of even more violence, more suffering and more loss.” It has since posted that it is “heartbroken by the violence that continues to devastate Israeli and Palestinian families.”
The nonprofit was “originally set up by Jews to help fellow Jews for reasons of religious imperative and communal solidarity,” and worked to help the American Jews find relatives in Europe post-World War II.
Today, its mission has changed. It is now “a multi-continent, multi-pronged humanitarian aid and advocacy organization with thousands of employees dedicated to helping forcibly displaced persons around the world in keeping with the organization’s Jewish ethical roots,” per the HIAS website. It has also quoted the Talmud on X.
Klein, however, charges that HIAS has “failed to call for the defeat or surrender of Hamas, even though this is absolutely necessary to stop more Oct. 7s from occurring.”
A JNS review of HIAS’s X account returned no references to “Hamas.” The terror organization, which the United States has designated for 26 years, is mentioned several times on the HIAS website, but the organization doesn’t appear to have called for Hamas to be removed.
HIAS has also “promoted untrue accusations about Islamophobic and anti-Arab attacks in Israel and the ‘West Bank,’” Klein said.
He also criticized HIAS’s efforts to push Israel to resettle 30,000 illegal Eritrean and Sudanese immigrants, saying that “HIAS inaccurately calls these economic migrants ‘asylum seekers,’ despite their lack of legal or moral entitlement to asylum.”
“There have been huge problems with these illegal economic migrants committing crimes and attacking elderly Jews in southern Tel Aviv, making life unbearable for many poor elderly Jews,” Klein said.
“Especially at this time, when there are so many displaced and injured Jews who need assistance in Israel—and antisemitism is hurting Jews throughout the world—HIAS needs to return to prioritizing Jewish lives and safety,” he stressed.
‘Aiding displaced persons, regardless of their faith’
JNS asked HIAS how, if at all, it has done its work differently since Oct. 7, particularly given rising Jew-hatred.
“With growing antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred around the world, HIAS will not stray from our mission,” Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of HIAS, told JNS. “In Israel, we are assisting Jewish evacuees as well as non-Jewish Ukrainian and African asylum seekers.”
“Our work in Israel is a reflection of our work around the world—aiding displaced Jews and, as a Jewish organization, aiding other displaced persons regardless of their faith identity,” he said.
JNS asked what percentage of the refugees with whom HIAS works are Jewish, and the nonprofit did not respond.