Immigrants and Refugees, New York, 1941-early 1950s

Throughout the 1940s, Vishniac documented the recent arrival of Jewish refugees and Holocaust survivors, working as a freelance photographer for groups like the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), National Refugee Service (NRS), and HICEM (a coalition of several Jewish aid organizations). Vishniac documented recent immigrants' efforts to establish new lives in America, mirroring his own experiences at that time. Focusing on the essential work of Jewish social service organizations in providing education, housing, and other assistance, his images were reproduced in contemporary newspaper articles, annual reports, and brochures in an effort to raise funds and awareness.

During this period, Vishniac extensively photographed many of New York's Jewish hospitals, where large numbers of young, female Jewish refugees worked as nurses. Many had come from Displaced Persons camps, where they provided health services and education to fellow refugees, and were able to find careers within the network of hospitals and nursing schools funded by the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York (FJP). Vishniac's photographs helped institutions like Beth Israel School of Nursing, Montefiore Hospital, Jewish Hospital School of Nursing, and the Hospital for Joint Diseases document the increasing prominence of nurses and publicize the new programs created to train them. A small portion of this body of work is exhibited here for the first time.

Maya Benton, Curator

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