|Dear HIAS PA Supporter,
As I write this, I am looking around my soon-to-be ex-office in the Jewish Federation Building at 2100 Arch Street. The office that our longtime Executive Director Judith Bernstein-Baker once held. An office that is part of a suite of seven offices and a handful of cubicles that housed us when the number of clients we served numbered in the hundreds, not the thousands. But we grew.
As we took on the case management of refugees from Jewish Children and Family Services, we added offices on the third floor. As we increased our immigrant youth advocacy efforts, we expanded to offices on the fourth floor. As we started to serve more victims of violent crimes, we added even more cubicles. But over the last four years, these spaces were not enough to house the staff we needed to serve the asylum-seekers, DACA recipients, and other immigrants who needed our services, so we added two more offices across the city.
But being spread across the city was a detriment to our clients and the staff who served them. Some clients had to travel from one office to another to receive different types of services. Staff expertise became siloed by location. And so we decided to move to one office on one floor. This move is the culmination of our organization growing to serve more than 4,000 individuals per year, ensuring that they have the chance—despite anti-immigrant rhetoric, xenophobia, and poverty—to start successful new lives in Philadelphia and bring to those of us that are already here, all of the joy and inspiration of their cultures, languages, faiths, courage, and resilience.
Today’s move, like so many parts of this year, is different from what we expected. We won’t (yet) be able to use our new conference room, with its window into a children’s area where new arrivals can leave their children to be watched while they learn their first words of English. Our staff won’t (yet) be in the same space, brainstorming solutions to thorny legal problems at the water fountain. We won’t (yet) invite our supporters to come visit us and see our work in action. But we are excited for the future—when the pandemic subsides and all and more of these things can happen.