HIAS: Celebrating World Refugee Day and a Historic Legacy of Helping Refugees

On World Refugee Day, June 20, HIAS, a longstanding humanitarian organization with an incredible history of aiding refugees and KAICIID’s Network for Dialogue member, held a series of events across Europe to commemorate and celebrate the resilience and strength of displaced people. HIAS, formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, has been assisting refugees for nearly 140 years, providing vital support during times of crisis and offering hope and integration assistance to those seeking refuge in new lands.

Moldova – A Vibrant Festival in Balti

In the city of Balti, Moldova, HIAS joined hands with several partners to create a vibrant outdoor festival for World Refugee Day. The festival featured a technology and robotics course, “Steam on Wheels,” aimed at inspiring children’s interest in innovation and technology. Guided by TekEdu, over 40 enthusiastic young participants, primarily boys aged 7 to 8, explored the fascinating world of robotics and IT.

Moreover, a brunch organized in collaboration with Voice brought together social workers and partners to discuss strategies to combat gender-based violence (GBV). More than 14 participants engaged in dialogical discussions and presented ideas for future collaborations and projects to tackle this pressing issue.

To foster a sense of cultural exchange and intercultural dialogue, traditional Ukrainian and Moldovan snacks were served throughout the day, allowing refugees and locals to savor the culinary delights of different regions. The event was attended by just over 100 refugees, primarily hailing from rural areas, and was made possible with the assistance of HIAS partner CasMed, which provided transportation for the attendees.

Romania – Empowering Communities and Promoting Unity

In Romania, HIAS organized multiple events across different cities hosting Ukrainian refugees. In Bucharest, more than 500 refugees from Afghanistan, Ukraine, Uganda, Syria, and other countries gathered in a park to enjoy a diverse array of activities. Attendees were treated to live music, film screenings, and master classes, while children from various backgrounds, including Ukrainian, Afghan, Syrian, and Ugandan, participated in a painting activity conducted by psychologists from the association ANAIS.

In Constanta, a Skills Fair was organized with the participation of the Civic Resource Center and Constanța pentru Ucraina. This fair provided adults and children alike with an opportunity to share their knowledge and skills, encouraging empowerment and self-sufficiency among the refugee community.

Meanwhile, in Galati, a heartwarming community singing event was held, bringing together Ukrainian refugees with the assistance of Help to Ukraine.

HIAS Europe’s Newsletter and Op-eds

HIAS Europe released a special World Refugee Day-dedicated newsletter, which highlighted inspiring stories from Welcome Circles, groups of Jewish volunteers dedicated to assisting Ukrainian refugees. The newsletter also included updates on the Neighbours Project, an initiative aimed at bringing together local communities of different faiths and cultures, fostering understanding, dialogue and cooperation.

urthermore, HIAS Europe Director, Ilan Cohn, penned op-eds published in prominent media outlets such as the Times of Israel, Jeudische Allgemeine in Germany, and Nieuwe Israelitsch Weekblad in the Netherlands. These articles shed light on the critical work being done by HIAS and its impact on the lives of displaced people.

HIAS’ Historical Legacy of Helping Refugees

HIAS’ journey began on Ellis Island, where predecessor organizations provided crucial assistance to newly arrived Russian Jews in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Soon, HIAS expanded its operations to aid Jewish refugees fleeing from various conflicts and persecutions worldwide, from World War I to World War II and the fall of the Soviet Union.

Over the years, HIAS extended its support to refugees of various backgrounds, regardless of religion or ethnicity, and today, HIAS continues to evolve as an international humanitarian organization, working with local communities, governments, and other partners to provide essential services to more than a million people annually. Our initiatives include legal assistance, psychosocial care, economic inclusion, emergency response, and protection against gender-based violence.

HIAS’ efforts on World Refugee Day serve as a testament to our ongoing commitment to supporting refugees across Europe and beyond. As we continue our historic legacy of helping refugees, HIAS proves that compassion, unity, and support can make a significant difference in the lives of those forced to flee their homes. Our commitment to support refugee integration and collaborate across countries and regions using dialogue is one of the main motivations for being Network for Dialogue member and share our common vision for better future.

Ilaria Molinari, HIAS

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