TEL AVIV – The news media has been spotlighting a letter signed by 1,000 U.S. rabbis urging elected officials to welcome refugees into America.
Missing from the coverage is that the organization that arranged and sponsored the letter, HIAS, specializes in refugee resettlement and last year received 65.3 percent of its annual $25 million budget from government grants.
Those grants include funds from the State Department and the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the Department of Health and Human Services. Another major donor is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Guidestar documented that in 2013, HIAS received $16,261,661 from government and intergovernmental agencies and it took in a total of $31,218,870 in revenue.
In 2012, $14,707,399 in government grants was donated to HIAS and the organization produced $27,677,240 in revenue.
In 2008, the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, a division of the UN Economic and Social Council, officially accepted HIAS as an accredited NGO.
HIAS openly states on its website it is the “only Jewish organization designated by the federal government to undertake” refugee resettlement, which “lies at the heart of HIAS’ work.”
The group is partners with local Refugee Assistance Organizations around the country to “ensure successful integration.”
“Although this can be a long process requiring the participation of many actors, refugees bring the resilience and resourcefulness that saved their lives at home,” HIAS relates.
HIAS was an acronym that previously stood for the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and it originally worked to resettle Jewish emigrants from Russia. It dropped the full title and only goes by the acronym now. Mark Hetfield, HIAS president and CEO, told the Washington Jewish Week in December 2014 the word “Hebrew” was exclusionary and outdated, comparing it with the use of the word “colored” to refer to African Americans.
The organization’s governmental funding and resettlement work was not mentioned in a Washington Post article on Thursday titled, “1,000 American rabbis sign letter welcoming Syrian refugees.”
Reported the Post:
More than 1,000 rabbis in the United States signed onto a letter urging elected officials in the country to “exercise moral leadership for the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.”
The letter was published on the website of HIAS, a venerable U.S. charity once known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society that was originally founded in the 19th century to help bring over emigrants from Czarist Russia.
Also on Thursday, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, or JTA, reported on the letter and only identified HIAS as “the lead Jewish body dealing with immigration issues.” That article was republished by the progressive-leaning Jewish Forward newspaper.
A Breitbart Jerusalem sampling of dozens of signatories to the letter found the vast majority of rabbis hail from the politically progressive Reform and Reconstructionist Jewish movements.
With research by Brenda J. Elliott.