HIAS office in Israel, 1950s-1960s

Among the material found in the six boxes from the office of Valery Bazarov, Director of HIAS Location and Family History Service, was a box of files, documents and artifacts from the HIAS office in Israel. According to a printout of an email found with the files, this material was sent to Valery by Neil Grungras, then HIAS Director of Europe and the Middle East.

The files are mostly those of Alexander Arnon, the Director of the Israel office, circa 1964-1968. In the 1960s the Israel office provided “special migration services, welfare counseling, location, loan and remittance services, in addition to liaison relationships with [the g]overnment and the Jewish Agency”. [Information on the Israel office from the HIAS 1965 Annual Report]

Artifacts include 2 large guest books, signed by visitors and guests at HIAS House in the Negev during the 10 years it was owned by HIAS, 1955-1965.

Includes signature of Sobeloff, then Solicitor General of the United States
Includes signature of Simon Sobeloff *, then Solicitor General of the United States

Originally HIAS House was built to provide accommodations for scientists and technicians working on the reclamation of the Negev desert. The opening ceremony was on September 16, 1955 (61 years ago today as it turns out). Ten years later, after completing its original function, the building was sold “at cost” to the municipality of Beersheba for the use of the Institute for Higher Education in the Negev, and was renamed, “University in the HIAS House”. That November, 1965, 250 students and 43 professors held classes there; it was planned that HIAS House would eventually become part of the University of Beersheba.

Also in the box was a photograph album, mostly unlabeled, but apparently of facilities for recent immigrants, “olim”, built in various locations around Israel and funded in part by HIAS.

Building for new immigrants in Israel, circa 1950s
Building for new immigrants in Israel, circa 1950s

From the photographs of the signs on some of the buildings it appears that HIAS participated in this project in conjunction with various political parties and other Israeli entities, including the Progressive Party in Israel, Histadrut and Hapoel Hamizrachi in Israel. Recently, we discovered in Finance Department files financial reports from the related HIAS entity, “Mishkenot Olim”.

One loose item from the Israel office materials has already proved helpful in responding to a research question from HIAS about overseas offices – an undated address list of HIAS staff and affiliates around the world.

HIAS Address List, 1976, from the HIAS office in Israel.
HIAS Address List, 1976, from the HIAS office in Israel.

The list is from 1976; someone from the Israel office apparently kept it updated through about 1989.

We hope in the coming months to find materials from other overseas HIAS offices. Stay tuned.

* Simon Sobeloff was the brother of Isidore Sobeloff – See AJHS collection I-433 for more information about Isidore

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