In November of 1990, a small contingent of HIAS officials traveled from New York to San Diego for three days of events with the local Jewish community. The purpose of the trip was to increase awareness of HIAS in the area, brief the community on the agency’s work with Soviet Jews, and launch a membership drive. Records of these activities, including memos, itineraries, newspaper articles, correspondence, and budgets, exist in the files of Carolyn Agress, then the Director of Membership Services and the Women’s Division.
The officials were:
- Ben Zion Leuchter, HIAS President
- Karl D. Zukerman, Executive Vice President
- Deborah Mark, Special Assistant to the Executive Vice President
The plan was to meet with San Diego Jewish community leaders, the staff of local Jewish volunteer organizations, and members of the Soviet Jewish émigré community to bring them up to date on what HIAS was doing for Jews from the USSR.
The schedule included:
- A briefing on Soviet émigrés at the Jewish Community Center at 4079 54th Street.
- A presentation for the Downtown Breakfast Club of the United Jewish Federation of San Diego County, held at the University Club at 750 B Street.
- A dessert reception for the San Diego Jewish Community Relations Council, San Diego Federation, and Jewish Family Services of San Diego, at the home of HIAS board members Linda and Shearn Platt.
The HIAS group also met individually with the staffs of Federation and Jewish Family Services.
HIAS hoped to attract the attention of the local press, preparing a press kit in advance. The kit included a biography of Ben Zion Leuchter and an abbreviated description of the process by which HIAS assisted Soviet Jewish refugees to immigrate to the US.
“Moscow Processing for Soviet Jews” (click to enlarge):
Ads were placed in the San Diego Union, San Diego Jewish Times, and San Diego Heritage.
Articles appeared in the San Diego Jewish Times, the Southwest Jewish Press, and the San Diego Union.
HIAS needs members to act as advocates, to impress upon their congressional delegates the importance of refugees.
Ben Zion Leuchter,
quoted in the San Diego Jewish Times, 11/23/90
Leuchter told the Southwest Jewish Press that only 40,000 Soviet Jews annually were being accepted in the United States as refugees, while perhaps five times as many headed for Israel each year.
To say, ‘Let them live wherever they want to,’ we know damn well because of their lack of Jewish association historically over the last 70 years, it is natural, perfectly natural, for a Soviet Jew to live where he thinks the best economic opportunity is, so he is going to choose the United States. I think American Jewry is saying, ‘Hey, we waited 2,000 years for a Jewish state, and we know how desperately Israel needs people and this is the reason for the founding of the Jewish state, to be able to take in people from a land of distress.’
Ben Zion Leuchter,
quoted in the Southwest Jewish Press, 11/23/90
Immediately following the trip, HIAS conducted a membership campaign mailing in conjunction with the San Diego Federation. The following letter went out to 16,000 Federation member families:
A letter from Carolyn Agress to Leslye Lyons of the Jewish Community Relations Council, sent November 23rd, noted that returns had started coming in the week prior, and looked “very good.” Agress noted that it was too soon to predict results, but from the feedback HIAS had received, signs pointed to the campaign being a success.
Archival documents referenced in this post may be found in the 090 San Diego campaign files under Development—Membership—Campaigns. Final box number will most likely be 0297.