HIAS and JDC Work to Resettle European and African Jews

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 to help European Jews relocate to other parts of the world, was busier than ever. Nationally, the organization helped resettle more than 150,000 displaced persons between 1944 and 1949. Many came to Baltimore and HIAS sought to find them housing, offered financial assistance and helped them adapt to their new homes.

With the creation of the State of Israel after the war, the situation for Jews living in Muslim countries became perilous. Between 1948 and 1950, the Joint Distribution Committee’s (JDC) “Operation Magic Carpet” airlifted more than 51,000 Jews from Yemen, Aden, Eritrea and Saudi Arabia to Israel. “When they arrived, they literally got down on their knees and kissed the ground. It was a very moving experience,” recalled a witness from the time.

From 1950 to 1952, JDC assisted another 130,000 Jews from Iraq and Kurdistan through operations Ezrah and Nehemiah, and in 1953 an additional 45,000 Jews from North Africa. The Jewish Welfare Fund of Baltimore’s funding of the JDC helped support the needs of both those beginning new lives in Israel as well as those who remained behind. The JDC offered assistance to some 90,000 Jewish children throughout the Muslim world by supporting clinics and medical installations to combat tuberculosis, trachoma and tinea; establishing milk depots; and organizing summer camps and educational programs.

Back in Baltimore, the Associated Jewish Charities and the Jewish Welfare Fund of Baltimore worked to educate the Baltimore Jewish community about the agencies’ needs locally and abroad. The JWF published a newsletter, “Behind the Headlines,” with information about the plight of Jews throughout the world and in Israel. “Our monies are needed to help those who have no one else to turn to. As long as there is a transient Jew unsettled anywhere in the world, we personally must continue to provide the money, for as this continuous stream of refugees flee, they must know that someone will help.”

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