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Jewish Immigrant Aid Services of Canada (JIAS)

JEWISH IMMIGRANT AID SERVICES OF CANADA (JIAS), one of the oldest chartered nonprofit settlement organizations in Canada. For over 80 years JIAS has been the voice of the Canadian Jewish community on issues of integration and resettlement in Canada and has helped in the settlement of hundreds of thousands of Jewish immigrants to Canada. The agency continues to champion the cause of new immigrants and refugees by positively influencing Canadian immigration laws, policies, and practices, and by ensuring that they are humane in nature and responsive to the needs of new arrivals to Canada. JIAS also assists individuals to navigate the Canadian immigration process and works for the integration of Jewish immigrants into local communities across Canada.

JIAS was founded in the wake of World War I. In 1919, the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) was formed. At its plenary, the delegates, moved by the plight of Jewish refugees in Europe, called upon the government of Canada to maintain an open door policy and reject restrictionist pressure to exclude a "whole race or nation." But CJC was weak, and its leaders, including Lyon *Cohen and Sam *Jacobs, realized that a separate organization was needed to deal with issues of immigration. The Jewish Immigrant Aid Society was established in 1920, and incorporated in 1922. JIAS opened an office in Montreal and was soon lobbying government on immigration issues and assisting individual Jews in dealing with immigration authorities. As a community agency, JIAS also became the center for the sponsorship and transportation of immigrants, challenging the fixers, agents, and lawyers who sought to profit from the immigration process.

JIAS was arguably the most active Jewish communal organization in the 1920s. In its early years JIAS was active in assisting Russian refugees trapped in Romania and immigrants detained at Canadian ports of arrival. While the agency suffered under the weight of serious financial strains and an increasingly restrictionist Canadian immigration policy, it succeeded in intervening with the government to allow the arrival of several thousand Jewish refugees and the release of most of the detainees. While its financial situation remained difficult, JIAS soon earned the respect of the government and the Jewish community for its efforts on behalf of Jewish immigration.

With the Nazi seizure of power in Germany, the situation for European Jewry became more precarious. CJC was revitalized and, in partnership with JIAS, turned to the challenge of dealing with the policies of a government determined to restrict immigration and that of Jews in particular. Jewish delegations met with government immigration authorities, but their lobbying efforts were rebuffed. Only after World War II and a reopening of immigration was JIAS able to turn its efforts to the rescue, resettlement, and rehabilitation of Jews. Notably, in the aftermath of the Holocaust, JIAS, together with the Jewish Labour Committee and the Canadian Jewish Congress, successfully lobbied the government to allow the entry of orphans and workers. In all, some 35,000 Holocaust survivors and their children settled in Canada between 1947 and 1957. Servicing so large and sudden an inflow of immigrants strained JIAS resources and led to a duplication of services by other Jewish agencies. In 1947 Joseph *Kage was appointed executive national vice president and, with Canada now a major immigrant-receiving country, Kage was instrumental in restructuring JIAS so as to assist in the immigration and integration of Holocaust survivors and other Jewish immigrants.

In 1956 JIAS was in the lead helping with the resettlement of Hungarian Jews fleeing the failed Hungarian Revolution, and the wave of Jewish immigrants arriving in Canada from North Africa. In 1968, a purge of "Zionist elements" in Poland led to the emigration of most of the Jewish community. JIAS helped in the resettlement of some in Canada. JIAS' largest postwar challenge was assisting in the transport and integration of Soviet Jewry. Beginning in the 1970s, their migration to Canada grew until it reached some 30,000 arrivals. JIAS has helped not only with their resettlement but with their integration into Jewish life. Since the 1980s, JIAS has helped in the resettlement of Jews from Syria, the former Yugoslavia, and Argentina.

By the beginning of the 21st century there was an organizational restructuring of JIAS, so that there are three separate Jewish immigrant service provider agencies. Jewish Immigrant Aid Services of Canada, funded by UIA, with its head office located in Toronto assists Jewish newcomers to immigrate and settle in Canada. It also provides information and support to Jewish Family Service agencies serving new immigrants across the country. JIAS Toronto, located in Toronto, is a charitable organization (under the laws of Canada) funded jointly by the Jewish community and federal and provincial governments. Serving more than half of all Jewish immigrants arriving in Canada, JIAS Toronto assists newcomers to become part of the Toronto community. Similarly JIAS Montreal, located in Montreal, is also a charitable organization (under the laws of Quebec), funded jointly by the Jewish community and government to assist new immigrants to become part of the Montreal/Quebec society.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.