June 17, 2022

For Refugees Around the World, HIAS Brings Hope and Healing

National Philanthropic Trust’s donors recommend thousands of grants every year. This new series, Grants In Action highlights the breadth of causes and organizations NPT’s donors are supporting with grant recommendations from their donor-advised fund accounts.

Author Aly Semigran, Content Specialist

Each year, June 20th marks World Refugee Day, an observance created by the United Nations to honor refugees around the globe, calling attention to the plight of those fleeing conflict, discrimination and destitution. For HIAS, every day since its inception in 1881 has been dedicated to assisting and advocating for refugees.

This year is no exception. According to the United Nations Human Rights Council, more than 100 million people have been displaced in 2022 so far, the highest amount of people ever on record.

These numbers will grow with the prolonged Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has thus far displaced an estimated 14 million people. “We’ve been absorbed in responding to the growing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, a country where HIAS has a long history,” explains the organization’s Vice President of Development, Miriam Feffer.

HIAS works in twenty countries around the world (including a new location in Poland for those working on the Ukraine crisis) and helps place arrivals with resettlement partners across the U.S. They also assist refugees with legal aid, mental health counseling, economic integration and respond to gender-based violence. HIAS also organizes volunteers into “Welcome Circles” to give new refugees a built-in network upon arrival.

The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society was founded in 1881 to help Jewish refugees fleeing persecution in Europe and continued into the twentieth century by aiding war refugees and subsequently Jews fleeing the Soviet Union. The organization helped resettle South Asian refugees in the 1970s, and in the 2000s expanded to help refugees worldwide.

While the current refugee numbers in Ukraine and throughout the world (including the Middle East, Latin America and Africa) are nothing short of staggering, Feffer says that HIAS has witnessed a response to match the volume and severity of the crises. “Communities around the world come together to offer their help,” she said, inspiring and allowing the staff at HIAS to do their work.

Since Russia’s invasion began in February, Feffer says that the organization has “seen an outpouring of support at all levels,” including more than $29 million in donations. That number surpassed the organization’s total annual fundraising during the 2021 calendar year: $25.6 million.

“Making a gift to HIAS this year, more than ever, is a way to act on your values,” Feffer says. Long-term giving and grants from donor-advised funds (DAF) are “critical to sustaining our success,” she notes, explaining that reliable funding also ensures “that when the next crisis is down the road, we’re ready for it.” Last year, HIAS received approximately 2,900 gifts from donor-advised funds.

Last year, HIAS received approximately 2,900 gifts from donor-advised funds.

These philanthropic gifts primarily help with organizational and operating costs and maintaining a diverse staff of over 1,500 employees. “When someone can invest in the spaces we need, and the people we need to do the work, that has an impact that pays dividends for generations,” Feffer says.

Of course, the impact from donors can be directly felt by those who rely on the services and help HIAS provides. HIAS shares dozens upon dozens of refugee stories on their website, which Feffer says shows the common humanity we all share, while “celebrating differences and individual journeys.”

The powerful stories of refugees not only give insight and meaning but also allow donors to see that their donation, as Feffer explains, “allows a particular refugee to receive the tools they’ll need to survive the intense physical and/or emotional trauma they’ve experienced so they can go on to live healthy and fulfilled lives.”

Because, at the end of the day, no matter where you’re from or what your circumstances are, Feffer points out, “Everyone wants to protect their family. Everyone wants to be who they are, free of the fear of persecution.”

Photo Above: Anatoly and his granddaughter are among the over 250 internally displaced people living at a technical college in Ukraine. They are receiving assistance from HIAS’ partner, Right to Protection. Photo Credit: Alan Chin/HIAS

Additional reporting by Kathryn Kochanowicz