For the last 130 years, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) has provided rescue and refuge for persecuted and oppressed peoples – both Jews and, more recently, refugees and immigrants from all backgrounds – around the world.
On February 23rd, HIAS is throwing a benefit concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City in honor of their 130th anniversary. Headlining the concert is Regina Spektor, one of America’s most beloved young singer songwriters – and also an immigrant who, with HIAS’ help, moved from Russia to the United States in the late 1980s.
In the lead up to the concert HIAS Young Leader representative, Alexis Ortiz, talked with Repair the World about how she got inspired by HIAS, how their work around immigration has remained vital throughout the organization’s history, and what it’s like to work with Regina.
How did you get involved with HIAS?
I first got involved in Washington DC about two years ago. I had led some trips for AJWS in Central America, and wanted to stay involved with that community. HIAS in DC has a partnership with the Central American Resource Center, which is a one-stop center for Latin American immigrants in DC. I volunteered through HIAS teaching ESL and citizenship classes. We would hold big celebrations for Christmas and Hanukkah where we’d make papusas and latkes. I also got involved on Capitol Hill, lobbying for refugee policy. I recently moved to New York City, and have continued my work with HIAS here.