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Records of the United Service for New Americans

 Collection
Identifier: I-93

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains correspondence, records, and publications of the United Service for New Americans (USNA), the major immigration and resettlement organization in the United States for Jewish displaced persons immigrating in the late 1940s and early 1950s. These records document USNA’s interaction and coordination with the United States government’s Displaced Persons Commission, associated Jewish agencies, particularly the American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and representatives of Jewish settlement groups in cities and towns across the country. The organization helped obtain housing and job assurances for Jewish refugees without family in the United States and provided assurances that they would not become public charges. The correspondence and records in this collection document the entire process of immigration and resettlement, including obtaining the necessary assurances required for displaced persons to immigrate to the United States, relief services provided immediately upon the refugees’ arrival, their designation to and arrival in communities across the country, and the services provided to the new immigrants by their local Jewish communities thereafter.

Dates

  • undated, 1946-1954

Creator

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers, except items that may be restricted due to their fragility, or privacy.

Use Restrictions

No permission is required to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection, as long as the usage is scholarly, educational, and non-commercial. For inquiries about other usage, please contact the Director of Collections and Engagement at mmeyers@ajhs.org.

For reference questions, please email: inquiries@cjh.org

Historical Note

The United Service for New Americans (USNA) was formed through the merger of the National Refugee Service (NRS) and the National Service to Foreign Born of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW). The merger became official on August 1, 1946; however, the two agencies began to consolidate their services in June of that year.

A constituent agency of the United Jewish Appeal, the United Service for New Americans served as the major immigration and resettlement organization in the United States for Jewish refugees immigrating in the wake of World War II. Substantial immigration to the United States from Europe resumed in May 1946, as a result of President Harry S. Truman’s December 1945 directive requiring that existing immigration quotas be designated for displaced persons. As immigrants arrived in New York, USNA received them upon arrival, providing temporary shelter, food, clothing, and medical care. USNA set up similar reception and relief programs in San Francisco to serve emigrants arriving from Shanghai.

However, the involvement of the United Service for New Americans in the immigration process began long before new immigrants arrived in American ports. USNA was authorized by the government to provide group assurances as the basis for issuing visas to displaced persons in the American-occupied zones of Europe. These assurances provided for immigrants who did not have relatives in the United States or whose American family could not provide suitable assurances to the government that he or she would not become a public charge. In 1947, the agency was authorized to extend the assurances to displaced persons in Shanghai.

On October 28, 1948, USNA reached an agreement with the American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) that centralized within USNA the responsibility for coordinating with American Jewish communities and the Displaced Persons Commission to provide group assurances of jobs and housing for immigrants. USNA was charged with obtaining such assurances, transmitting them to the Displaced Persons Commission for certification, and processing and resettling all people arriving under such assurances. The JDC and HIAS agreed to pool overseas lists of Jewish displaced persons seeking entrance to the United States.

The United Service for New Americans coordinated closely with the JDC throughout the process of bringing Jewish displaced persons to the United States. The process began with welfare agencies, NCJW sections, and refugee committees in cities and towns across the United States finding local housing and job availabilities for displaced persons and reporting these availabilities to USNA. USNA would then certify these openings to the Displaced Persons Commission so that visas would be granted to Jewish displaced persons. The overseas migration service of the JDC was responsible for assisting Jewish displaced persons in applying for visas and helping them prepare for immigration. Once the visas were granted, immigrants were able to travel to the United States; USNA would meet the immigrants upon arrival and coordinate their travel to their final destinations. Immigrants would be met at their final destinations by representatives of local welfare agencies, NCJW sections, and refugee committees, who not only located jobs and housing but provided other welfare services, including social work services, assistance with social and cultural adjustment, financial and medical aid, education, English-language and Americanization programs, and vocational counseling. USNA provided each community a sum to cover the first two week’s maintenance so that the new immigrant would not be dependent immediately upon arrival. The community would continue its commitment to the new immigrant until he or she was self-sufficient.

In 1949, peak immigration levels led to the division of USNA into two separate organizations. Prior to 1949, in addition to its national activities, a special USNA division provided relief for new immigrants settling in New York City. In July 1949, the New York Association for New Americans (NYANA) was established to take over local relief functions in New York, allowing USNA to function for the first time as a national agency. As such, USNA no longer functioned primarily as a relief-granting agency, becoming instead primarily an agency facilitating immigration and resettlement.

On August 24, 1954, the United Service for New Americans merged with HIAS and the overseas migration service of the JDC to establish the United HIAS Service.

References

Reports to the Annual Meeting, January 10-11, 1948, Records of the United Service for New Americans, I-93, Box 23, Folder 1, American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.

Reports to the Annual Meeting, January 8-9, 1949, Records of the United Service for New Americans, I-93, Box 23, Folder 2, American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.

Reports to the Annual Meeting, January 14-15, 1950, Records of the United Service for New Americans, I-93, Box 23, Folder 3, American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.

Reports tp the Annual Meeting, January 20-21, 1951, Records of the United Service for New Americans, I-93, Box 23, Folder 4, American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.

Supplementary Facts on Activities of United Service for New Americans, January 19, 1952, Records of the United Service for New Americans, I-93, Box 23, Folder 5, American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.

Annual Report, January 17-18, 1953, Records of the United Service for New Americans, I-93, Box 23, Folder 6, American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.

Unified Program Under DP Act Brings Homeless Jews to U.S.A., undated, Records of the United Service for New Americans, I-93, Box 23, Folder 19, American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.

The USNA Story : A Summing-Up, 1933-1953, of 20 Years of Service to Jewish Refugees by the American-Jewish Community, March 1954, Records of the United Service for New Americans, I-93, Box 23, Folder 22, American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.

Extent

11.5 Linear Feet (23 manuscript boxes)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

This collection contains correspondence, records, and publications of the United Service for New Americans (USNA), the major immigration and resettlement organization in the United States for Jewish displaced persons immigrating in the late 1940s and early 1950s. These records document USNA’s interaction and coordination with the United States government’s Displaced Persons Commission, associated Jewish agencies, particularly the American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and representatives of Jewish settlement groups in cities and towns across the country. The organization helped obtain housing and job assurances for Jewish refugees without family in the United States and provided assurances that they would not become public charges. The correspondence and records in this collection document the entire process of immigration and resettlement, including obtaining the necessary assurances required for displaced persons to immigrate to the United States, relief services provided immediately upon the refugees’ arrival, their designation to and arrival in communities across the country, and the services provided to the new immigrants by their local Jewish communities thereafter.

Physical Location

Located in AJHS New York, NY

Database

This database contains correspondence between the United Service for New Americans and representatives of welfare agencies, NCJW sections, and refugee committees in cities and towns across the United States regarding the arrival of immigrants settling in these various communities. USNA sent each community a summary of individuals settled in that community under the established quota during the previous month. In order to confirm each immigrant’s arrival, USNA sent forms for community representatives to fill out and return, including the date individuals arrived in the community and indicating whether they had remained, did not arrive, or arrived but left. These forms include the name of the community and settlement agency responsible, USNA case number for each individual or family arriving, along with their names, ages, and port of entry with date of arrival. Additional correspondence between USNA and the community settlement agencies concerns the per capita allowance paid by USNA to cover the first two week’s maintenance. This index correspondence to information found in Series I: Quota Correspondence. The database may be accessed here.

Digitization Note

Digitization of the the Records of the United Service for New Americans (I-93) was supported by a Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Related Material

Additional records of the United Service for New Americans are held by the YIVO Archives. The YIVO Archives also holds records of the National Refugee Service, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, United HIAS Service, Main Office, and American Joint Distribution Committee Personal Service Department (Transmigration Bureau).

Records of the National Council of Jewish Women and National Council of Jewish Women, New York Section are held by the Leo Baeck Institute and American Jewish Historical Society, respectively. The American Jewish Historical Society holds additional records of the National Refugee Service as well as the papers of Cecilia Razovsky.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Archives holds records of the New York Office of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, 1945-1954.

Processing Information

Collection originally processed in 2007. In May 2015, Series V: Miscellaneous was divided into Series V: Annual Meetings and Conferences and Series VI: Publications. Series III and IV were transposed and Series IV: Displaced Persons Program Correspondence was rearranged alphabetically by folder title. Series-level Scope and Content Notes were added throughout, and the collection-level Scope and Content Note was updated. A Historical Note and Related Materials were added. Access Points were also updated.
Title
Guide to the Records of the United Service for New Americans, undated, 1946-1954
Status
Completed
Author
Processed by Marvin Rusinek. Additional processing by Sarah Glover
Date
© 2009
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.
Sponsor
Processed as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation.

Revision Statements

  • 02-5-2019: AF edited Access Restrictions and added dao placeholder tags. Collection is out for digitization.
  • 06-18-2019: AF removed temporary Access Restrictions.
  • January 2021: RJohnstone: post-ASpace migration cleanup.

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

Contact:
15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States