The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society brought Dale Schwartz's grandparents to the United States. Now Schwartz is returning the favor.
Schwartz has been chosen as the nonprofit organization's chairman, a post in which he expects he will draw on his experience as an Atlanta immigration lawyer. A past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Schwartz will begin his term in June.
"Life has been good to me, and I like to be able to put something back in the system," he said. "This is my way of doing that."
HIAS has resettled and helped persecuted Jews around the world, including victims of the Nazis during World War II. Schwartz has served on the HIAS board since 1981.Since Jewish resettlement is now decreasedthough Schwartz said the group keeps watch on Jews in Argentina, Venezuela, Hungary and FranceHIAS helps resettle thousands of non-Jewish refugees, many of whom are in the Middle East and Africa. It also provides humanitarian assistance to refugee camps.
"It's the organization that brought most of our grandparents to America from Europe or Russia or wherever they were from," said Schwartz, estimating the group has resettled nearly 6 million people.
Schwartz received the phone call to be chairman while attending a convention for ham radio, one of his hobbies. He joked that everyone else the group called must have said no.
Since then, Schwartz has been shadowing the present chairman, Marc Silberberg, a senior partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges.
"It's quite an honor, but it's also a little scary. … It's a big organization. It's got a $30- to $40 million-a-year budget, a very sophisticated board. All of these people have incredible credentialsand then there's little old me as chairman," Schwartz said, chuckling. "People's lives depend on how successful we are. That's a lot of responsibility."
As chairman, Schwartz is helping rebrand HIAS' image with new logos and slogans and a public relations campaign. In addition to a large load of traveling and fundraising, he will also meet with high-level government officials and participate in White House strategy sessions on refugees and immigration.
Schwartz said his profession as an immigration lawyerhe's a partner at Dale M. Schwartz & Associatesmeshes well with HIAS' work.