For the last two weeks, I have been processing a set of HIAS boxes labeled “Communications.”
After weeding the boxes and handing off the stray Executive Vice President files to my coworker Lawrence, only newsletters, press releases, pamphlets, and books remained. Though all were fascinating in their own right, the newsletters were, perhaps, the most revealing materials as, from them, I have been able to infer quite a bit about HIAS as an organization.
The newsletters in question are the “Rescue Information Bulletin,” for which we have copies from 1944 through 1957; the “F.Y.I.,” for which we have copies from 1975 through 1978; the “HIAS Bulletin,” for which we have copies from 1975 through 1979; and the “Inside HIAS” newsletter, for which we have copies from 1981 through 1983.
The first three HIAS newsletters listed above existed to put out information to those who could make use of HIAS’ services—for example, those looking for lost family members, or those trying to get family members out of hostile countries—to keep members informed, to broadcast HIAS’ achievements, and to keep HIAS’ varied audiences apprised of political developments abroad.
“Inside HIAS,” however, was begun by Executive Vice President Leonard Seidenman in order to improve communication between HIAS departments.
From the fact that “F.Y.I” and the “HIAS Bulletin” existed at the same time, I can infer that some HIAS departments were doing overlapping work, or having overlapping ideas without much awareness of what the other was doing. I can also guess that there was high staff turnover, which is why we see newsletters putting out similar (though not identical) information. Indeed, the very existence of “Inside HIAS” indicates that intra-departmental communication was lacking in the organization.
These boxes contained files which had already been removed from their original context (clearly, the Executive Vice President files did not belong with the Communications Department files). This meant that our work on this project required us to let the documents, as opposed to the order and context, teach us about HIAS organizational history.
I hope that more copies of these publications show up as we continue to receive new boxes, and that they continue to give us insight into the organizational history of HIAS.