Fleeing Communism and Antisemitism


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 early 1960s, more than 5,000 Cuban Jews sought asylum in the United States, with the Baltimore office of HIAS working to resettle refugees in the city.

Later in the decade, with the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, Jews fled to nearby Austria where they received help with food, shelter and clothing from JDC offices until they could be transported to Israel or other lands of freedom. “Every Baltimorean can take great satisfaction in the way the funds are being used to provide emergency relief and rescue work,” reported Clem Kaufman, who visited one of the JDC outposts in Vienna. “How much they seemed like people we know in Baltimore! I couldn’t help but ask myself, how we would react if we were caught in their circumstances?”

At the same time, antisemitism was also increasing in Poland and other Eastern European nations. The Associated responded by raising funds to help those affected immigrate to Israel. Literature at the time explained that a donation of $2,000 would pay for transportation and enroute expenses for a family of six Eastern European Jews “longing to escape persecution and begin a new in Israel.”

In the 1980s, the JDC once again provided a lifeline for persecuted in Jews in foreign lands—this time in Ethiopia. After the Israeli embassy reopened in 1990, thousands of Jews hoping to go to Israel poured into Addis Ababa. The JDC immediately organized humanitarian and medical services to help them. With the Ethiopian civil war worsening, Israel carried out an airlift, dubbed Operation Solomon, of more than 14,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel, which was completed in 36 hours, with 34 Israeli aircraft involved in nonstop flights. Once again, through the generosity of fellow Jews, a Jewish community was given an opportunity for a fresh start.

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