Rosh Hashanah Greetings from Latin America, 1991

Fred Weinstein worked for HIAS as Director of Latin American Operations from his base in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for 30 years, circa 1958-1988, according to a memo in a HIAS “deceased file” after his death in 1996. He often signed his name and was sometimes addressed as Ephraim, but after his retirement and move to the New York office from about 1988-1993, his New York colleagues more often called him Fred. In New York Fred served variously as the HIAS Latin America consultant/Director of Latin American Affairs, according to his two boxes of files from 1990-1993. His position reported to Dail Stolow through 1991 and then to Roberta Herche during their tenures as Director of Overseas Operations in the New York office. Fred may have been Brazilian; he was not an American citizen, as he worked in NY under a visa.

Most of what we know about Fred Weinstein’s HIAS work is in a previous blog post, which can be found here, and which also includes information about the possible whereabouts of the archives of the HIAS office(s) in South America.

Much of Fred’s New York-based correspondence was with Latin American Jewish organizations, including CONIB – Confederacão Israelita Do Brasil; and FIERJ – Federação Israelita do Estado do Rio de Janeiro;

Weinstein’s files are largely country files, containing correspondence and news clippings. A public relations flyer on the overseas offices includes a description of the Latin American affairs work since the closing of the Latin American office. HIAS then relied on the network of Latin American Jewish Organizations and institutions that Fred had cultivated while Jewish immigration to Latin America was still active; this network kept the New York office  informed on developments in these communities including any immigration/emigration issues needing HIAS attention.

Within these few remaining files of Fred’s last years with HIAS, there are many cards and letters with Rosh Hashanah greetings, predominantly from 1991. Some are more formal, some indicate a closer personal relationship with Fred’s family. In all cases they reveal the breadth and structure of the Jewish population across the region. And the stamps of course are wonderful. These greetings ultimately leave us with specifics of his contacts and the the leadership of the various Jewish communities he had worked with for 30 years.

With best wishes from the HIAS archives project team for a good year ahead.

Aruba envelope
Rosh Hashanah greetings from Aruba

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shana Tova from Buenos Aires, Argentina
Greetings from Catalina and Mario Gorenstein in Buenos Aires

 

 

Rosh Hashanah greetings from the president and secretary general of Comite Representativo de las Entidades Judias de Chile
Envelope from Chile
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Atonement

Carolyn Agress served as the Director of Membership Services at HIAS beginning in 1989. She coordinated membership campaigns, working with board members to solicit contributions, and overseeing the details of multiple campaigns per year. These donations represented a key component of the organization’s budget.

Letter of Carolyn Agress, Director of Membership Services and the Women’s Division, HIAS. March 6, 1991.

This Yom Kippur, those of us working on the HIAS processing project take inspiration from Carolyn, whose integrity and professionalism shine clearly through the records.

Yom tov.

 

A Happy and Healthy New Year from Raphael Spanien, 1961

In August 1961 Raphael Spanien, Deputy Director of HIAS headquarters in Paris, corresponded with Ann Petluck, at the time the Director of US Operations for HIAS in New York, about the difficulty in scheduling charter flight schedules, as well as travel by ship, for clients otherwise prepared to immigrate to the United States during the Jewish holidays in the fall of 1961.

Raphael Spanien to Ann Petluck, page 1
Raphael Spanien to Ann Petluck, page 2

“… I have tried to arrange an earlier booking in order that this family should not arrive on the first day of Succoth. The only possibility was an arrival Erev Yom Kippur. I think it is better … to arrive the first day of Succoth …”

Spanien reveals several things in the space of this two-page letter. First, that he is doing all he can to be respectful of his clients’ religious needs and also the urgency to complete their long transition to a more permanent home as soon as possible. He also reveals his personal limited first-hand knowledge of the holidays and when travel would be problematic for an observant family (and also for HIAS staff and volunteers in Europe and in the United States). The following sentence in particular is in its way charming, as well as illustrative of the logistics involved in booking passage, after the hard work of obtaining visas was completed:

… I really believe that to postpone these departure arrangements now would mean serious hardships for these families, since their tickets have been delivered and their baggage sent to the boat. Moreover, since the[y] arrive on the Friday preceding the second days of Succoth, I don’t really see any reason why this departure should now be changed. The Sunday, October 1st, being Hoshano Rabo, which by no means is a holiday, and as far as I remember the only obligation Jews have on this day is to ‘eat kreplach’, why can’t these people be entrained Saturday evening and arrive at their destination during the day of Sunday, Erev Shemini Azereth?

In closing the letter, Spanien also reveals how fond he is of Ann Petluck. By 1961 they would have worked together for at least a few years and possibly much longer. (Petluck had worked at the National Refugee Service (NRS) from at least 1943, continued at United Service for New Americans (USNA) when it took over NRS projects and staff in 1946, and then at HIAS when it took over USNA projects and staff in 1954.) Through all of these years HIAS held an annual Migration Conference which they both would have attended, and where they most likely met each other for the first time. Between conferences they communicated constantly on specific cases; they clearly worked hard to make the transition from a HIAS European transit office to HIAS care in the United States (or elsewhere) as easy as possible for their clients. Even in the post-war year of 1961 these clients might have been between permanent homes for months or years.

Those of us working on the HIAS archives project join Raphael Spanien in his traditional words (with the Ashkenazi pronunciation) at this High Holiday season:

… I don’t think that there will be any better opportunity for me to wish you and your family, your staff, and all our friends in New York a happy and healthy Year. Leshono tovu tikusevu …

 

 

 

 

 

Passover Greetings

The staff of the HIAS archives project would like to wish everyone a “happy and joyful Passover”. In fact, an egg-cellent holiday.

Greetings for Passover – eggs “rushed from nearby farms”

From Elizabeth, Susan, Patricia and Rachel

Happy Hanukah from HIAS, 1964

How did HIAS say Happy Hanukah in 1964? The same way most non-profit organizations acknowledge holidays today – with a fundraising appeal.

HANUKKAH 1964 Membership Letter, November 30, 1964
HANUKKAH 1964 Membership Letter, November 30, 1964 (scanned from a blurry carbon copy)

This membership appeal for donations was signed by HIAS president Murray Gurfein. Gurfein was president from 1956 to 1957, and again from 1960-1967. A lawyer and in active service during WWII, Gurfein led accomplished professional and volunteer careers. An article in The Forward on March 18, 1956 details his involvement with the Nuremberg trials after WWII, and sums up his life up to that point: “Murray Gurfein helped prosecute the Nazi Leaders—He was decorated by three countries for his activities in the second world war … now he has been elected president of the United HIAS Service. He is a son of a Galician Jew …”

For many people, that would be a satisfying summation of a life well-lived. But there was more. Gurfein had a successful law practice for more than 30 years. And in 1971 he was appointed to the United States District Court by President Richard M. Nixon. More on Murray Gurfein and his first case on the Appeals Court next week.

It is easy to forget that 1964 was a year of increased migration due to “political and economic unrest in various parts of the world,” according to HIAS’ Hanukah letter. At the end of November 1964 HIAS forecast the number of refugees they resettled at a 70% increase over 1963. The “more than 51,000 Jewish men, women and children” helped by HIAS in 1964 included those from Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Cuba, 23 persons from China and 11 from India. Access to information on emigration specifics will be available when the HIAS archives project is completed at the end of 2018.

We join Murray Gurfein in his closing, “With many thanks, and with hearty Hanukkah Greetings” from the HIAS project staff – Lawrence, Elizabeth, Janet and Susan.