On January 18, 1971 nearly 1,500 members of Baltimore’s Jewish community marched from Mt. Vernon Place to Johns Hopkins University to express their protest of the treatment of Soviet Jews. Walking up Charles Street, they shouted, “One, two, three, four, help break down the iron door! Five, six, seven, eight—let our people emigrate!”
And, eventually, faced with mounting pressure, the Soviet Union did.
Between 1970 and the mid-1990s, some 291,000 Soviet Jews were granted exit visas, of whom 165,000 migrated to Israel, and 126,000 came to the United States. More than 10,000 settled in Baltimore.
But accommodating the newly arrived refugees brought additional challenges. “The goals of the previous protest movement having to some extent been realized, the American Jewish community now faces the very real problems resulting from its dreams coming true,” wrote Jerome M. Gillison, a political science professor at Hopkins.
The Associated’s agencies mobilized. HIAS worked in conjunction with numerous other agencies on resettlement. CHAI provided newcomers with rental information and home-ownership assistance. Jewish Family Services handled pre-resettlement orientation, case management and counseling. The Board of Jewish Education awarded scholarships for children to attend Jewish nursery and religious schools and offered programs to teach families about their own religion, which they had been forbidden to practice in the Soviet Union. And newly arrived Jews were welcomed with Purim parties, picnics, and an annual Reception and Tea for New Americans in order to integrate them into the Jewish community and help them feel more at ease in their new-found homes.
The promise of new suburban housing, spacious lawns and new schools, coupled with discriminatory housing practices that prevented Jews from living in certain neighborhoods, shaped the migration to northwest Baltimore in the second half of the century. In 1959 the JCC was built on Park […]
Baltimore’s earliest Jewish immigrants–mainly from Germany and then from Russia and Eastern Europe–primarily settled in Fells Point, South Baltimore and East Baltimore, where they established homes, business, schools and synagogues. East Baltimore quickly became one of Baltimore’s first distinctly Jewish communities. And that’s where the […]
After the war, as Communism spread, Jews living in Cuba had their livelihoods and possessions stripped by Fidel Castro’s new regime. Many of them had been refugees from Nazi Germany and were forced to flee their homes for a second or third time. In the […]
It was 1945 and the European Jewish community was devastated. Millions had been killed by the Nazi regime and those who had survived its atrocities were desperate for help. In Baltimore, the local office of HIAS, which had been working before and during the war […]
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