New York, NY … May 11, 2017 – The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) earlier this week honored HIAS for their contributions in advancing the fair and welcoming treatment of immigrants to America.
The inaugural ADL-Kovler Nation of Immigrants Award was presented to HIAS during ADL’s Shana Amy Glass National Leadership Summit, a gathering of nearly 600 young leaders from across the country in Washington, D.C.
Founded in 1881 originally to assist Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe, HIAS resettles some of the world’s most vulnerable refugees and advocates to make the U.S. a more welcoming country for immigrants. Their work is guided by Jewish values and historical experiences of forced migration and religious persecution.
“Our country today is in serious need of a strong voice and a moral center to remind us of what the promise of America is all about,” Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO, said in presenting the award to HIAS. “We could not be prouder to present this award to HIAS in recognition of their ongoing work on behalf of America’s refugees.”
The award was established by Peter and Judy Kovler and the Blum-Kovler Foundation to honor an individual or group’s contributions to fair and welcoming treatment of immigrants. HIAS – the award’s first recipient – holds special meaning to the Blum-Kovler family, being the organization responsible for helping Peter’s wife, Judy’s, mother immigrate from Europe to the U.S in 1938.
In March, ADL partnered with Peter and Judy Kovler and the Blum–Kovler Foundation to launch the A Nation of Immigrants Project. The Project is a platform for education, advocacy and awareness of immigrants in the United States and honor President John F. Kennedy’s legacy during the centennial of his birth.
Through a generous grant of $250,000, the Blum–Kovler Foundation is providing critical resources to sustain and enhance ADL’s significant advocacy and public messaging on immigration issues through education and grassroots advocacy. This will include updated education and resource materials, a digital re-publishing of Kennedy’s 1958 book, “A Nation of Immigrants” and a public awareness campaign in The New York Times.
In accepting the award, Mark Hetfield, President and CEO of HIAS, reminded his listeners of how HIAS, ADL, and others in the American Jewish community fought for decades – through the Nuremberg racial laws in Germany, Kristallnacht, World War II and the Holocaust – to reopen America’s doors to refugees and to end anti-Semitism and xenophobia. He said that today the U.S. is in danger, once again, “…of treating people differently based solely on where they happened to be born, and what their faith happens to be.”
“Since that time, HIAS continues to work on five continents, striving to keep refugees safe where they are,” Hetfield said. “In the United States, we continue to provide asylum seekers with legal representation, advocate for policies that respect the human rights of refugees, and assistant thousands of refugees with their path to citizenship.”
Supporting fair and humane immigration policy has been a pillar ADL’s work to secure justice and equality for Jews and for all groups.
After Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, which put restrictions on immigrants entering the country based on preferred ethnicity and skill, ADL reached out in 1958 to the then-junior U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy, asking him to highlight the contribution of immigrants at a time when the country was locked in a debate about the direction its policy should take. This essay is the last manuscript President John F. Kennedy ever wrote, and ADL later published it as a book.
More recently ADL has helped expose anti-immigrant hate that too often has been a fixture of the immigration debate, and has called for a responsible public debate that will honor America’s history as a nation of immigrants.