Not your bubbe’s Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, not even ‘Hebrew’ anymore

Syrian refugees wait in line to cross the border of Hungary and Austria on their way to Germany in September 2015. Credit: Mstyslav Chernov via Wikimedia Commons.
Syrian refugees wait in line to cross the border of Hungary and Austria on their way to Germany in September 2015. Credit: Mstyslav Chernov via Wikimedia Commons.
Abraham H. Miller
Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a distinguished fellow with the Haym Salomon Center.

By Abraham H. Miller/JNS.org

In parts of Europe, Jews have been warned that wearing anything that identifies them as Jewish means putting a target on their back. In Stockholm, Jews were asked to stay away from the Kristallnacht remembrance ceremonies for fear of sparking violence. French Jews are immigrating to Israel in increasing numbers. In Manchester, England, special police accompany Jewish children to school. The main synagogue in Florence, Italy, looks like an American military outpost in Afghanistan.

All of this is in response to a growing and flourishing anti-Semitism in Europe reminiscent of the 1930s. And while neo-Nazism and a remnant of fascism still lurk in the netherworld of European society, the new anti-Semitism is a direct consequence of the tide of Muslim immigration that has been rising throughout Europe.

In America, anti-Semitism has become an integral part of academic life, and at Vassar College it seems to be central to the learning experience itself. At University of California, San Diego, it is possible to stand at a public forum and call for killing Jews, without the remotest consequence on a campus known for its multi-cultural sensitivity and commitment to diversity. Try expressing such sentiments about any other ethnic group and you would be thrown out of school without even a convening of the campus diversity and opportunity Star Chamber.

Invite a speaker to talk positively about Israel, and the Muslim Student Association and its leftist cohorts will be there to impose the heckler’s veto.

So amid all of this, it stands to reason that sponsoring the absorption of even more Syrian Muslim refugees, who have spent a lifetime being indoctrinated in Jew-hatred, is exactly what the Jewish community in America needs. Right?

That’s the mantra of HIAS, formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which last December found that the word “Hebrew” no longer worked and thus dropped it from the organizations’ name. Perhaps “Hebrew” would be off-putting to HIAS’s new clients: Syrian Muslim refugees.

In 2013, HIAS participated in the creation of a report that labeled opponents of Muslim immigration as bigots. Indeed, sane people of good will who value our heritage and want to embrace immigrants who not only want to come to America but also want to be part of American culture, should demand to be on whatever infamous lists HIAS wants to create.

The politically consonant Southern Poverty Law Center maintains such a list, and columnist Daniel Greenfield and his cat have been added to the list as a hate group. (“Group” denotes more than one, so Greenfield needs his cat in order to qualify.) Refugee expert Ann Corcoran who has lobbied to be included has yet to see her name accepted, and this writer is probably too insignificant to make the cut, but is cheering for Ann and Daniel Greenfield’s cat.

Speaking against HIAS in the Jewish community is like speaking against God or the Torah. People remember with reverence the HIAS of old—the HIAS that brought Jewish refugees to this country and helped give them a leg up toward acculturation. That HIAS, your grandmother’s HIAS, would never have dropped Hebrew from its name. It would have proudly embraced its Jewish roots. That HIAS would be helping the Jewish refugees fleeing Europe. It would have been in Malmo, Sweden, from which half the Jewish community has fled. It would have been in Paris helping Jews escape the violence and bigotry of North African Muslims. That HIAS no longer even remotely exists.

HIAS’s webpage and its refugee advocacy have nothing to do with Jewish refugees or the plight of Jews suffering anti-Semitism. HIAS has become just another refugee advocacy group that is one of nine voluntary organizations designated as such by the U.S. government and receiving the bulk of its financing from federal funding. Like the others, which include the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Lutheran Social Services, HIAS has an economic interest in pushing for more and more refugees.

Regrettably, HIAS has rendered the Jewish community vulnerable to the anti-Semites who see its actions as part of some larger Jewish conspiracy, a charge not made against the Christian refugee resettlement groups who have the same economic motivations. But then pasting a conspiracy onto Lutheran Social Services, which is largely responsible for the resettlement of Somalis in Minnesota, lacks the je ne sais quoi of a Jewish conspiracy.

Recreating in America the same anti-Semitic culture that thrives in Europe as a consequence of immigration does not promote the interests of the Jewish community. On HIAS’s website, black-and-white photos invoke Jewish refugees from the past, in sharp contrast to the colorized photos of its current work. Removal of “Hebrew” from its name marks the demise of the HIAS of old and its willingness to risk here in America the same anti-Semitism that pervades Europe.

Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a distinguished fellow with the news and public-policy group Haym Salomon Center.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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