Coming to America: The Land of Opportunity


Throughout the years, Jews from all over the globe have found their way to Baltimore. From the early Eastern European immigrants running from the pogroms to, more recently, Jews from Arab countries fleeing antisemitism, they often arrived with few possessions. They turned to The Associated to provide such services as financial assistance, job training, loans and English classes to help them successfully integrate into America. Today, these former immigrants and their families are thriving and giving back.

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The EARLIEST IMMIGRANTS

Between 1900 and 1914, an estimated 25,000 Jews arrived and settled in Baltimore, many with the help of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), an early Associated Jewish Charities agency whose representatives met newcomers at the pier, assisted with customs, corresponded with local relatives or helped them locate housing and employment. 

Beginning in 1909, the Jewish Educational Alliance (JEA) offered courses in English, vocational trades, citizenship and “Americanization” classes for newly arrived immigrants. Children received specialized education to help them learn English and the American way of life. 

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LEAVING EUROPE BEHIND

In the late 1930s, the Refugee Adjustment Committee provided German immigrants fleeing Nazi rule with financial assistance, job placement services and social workers to help them adjust to their new homes.

With the outbreak of World War II, HIAS Baltimore worked with international organizations to assist refugees from Nazi Germany and helped those in displaced persons camps resettle in the city. The Baltimore office also began processing restitution claims against Germany for the persecution that occurred under the Nazi regime.

IMMIGRATION — COMING FROM AROUND THE WORLD

In the aftermath of 1956 Hungarian Revolution, refugees fled Communist oppression in Hungary and arrived in Baltimore. The Associated Placement and Guidance Services (APGS) launched Operation English to teach refugees the language in order for them to secure jobs.

After Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba, Cuban Jews, faced economic strife as the Communist government seized their businesses and property. Many immigrated to cities in the United States, including Baltimore, where they needed to rebuild their lives from nothing.

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Egyptian Jewish refugees, fleeing Egypt after the Yom Kippur War in 1973, and Iranian Jews fleeing Iran, faced a similar fate as they arrived in the United States.

Various agencies of The Associated supplied services, including the Jewish Family and Children’s Bureau, which contributed clothing, furniture and other necessities, and the Hebrew Free Loan Association, which offered interest-free loans for housing. Newly arrived Jews also were welcomed with Purim parties, trips, picnics and an annual Reception and Tea for New Americans in order to integrate them into the Jewish community.

SOVIET IMMIGRATION

Throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, HIAS worked in conjunction with numerous other agencies in securing the freedom of Soviet Jews. Once in Baltimore, multiple agencies focused on resettlement. In addition, many of these immigrants had little knowledge of Jewish religion, culture or heritage, having been forbidden to practice in the Soviet Union. The Associated and its agencies provided an introduction to Jewish life through Shabbat retreats, Passover Seders and education. Baltimore Hebrew University offered classes on a range of topics, including Jewish life in America. The Board of Jewish Education awarded scholarships for children to attend Jewish nursery and religious schools.

HIAS Jewish Family & Children Services
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