Our History

The HIAS Foundation is proud to support HIAS, the world’s oldest refugee agency. Though the organization was formally incorporated as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society in 1903, that founding moment represented a continuation of several predecessor organizations that had worked through the 1880s and 1890s to assist Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe. While those arriving in the United States at that time were refugees, the world did not yet have a legal concept for people who needed safe refuge outside their homelands.  

Originally set up by Jews to help fellow Jews for reasons of religious imperative and communal solidarity, HIAS in the 2020s is a multi-continent, multi-pronged humanitarian aid and advocacy organization with thousands of employees dedicated to helping forcibly displaced people around the world in keeping with the organization’s Jewish ethical roots.  

In 2023, the global number of displaced persons topped 110 million for the first time and continues to grow. In recent years, nativist politicians around the world, along with social, economic, and climate crises, have increased the pressure on all refugees, asylum seekers, and people who have been displaced in any way.  

In 2023, HIAS established the HIAS Foundation to manage and steward a permanent endowment, intended to provide support to HIAS in perpetuity.