We Used to Take Refugees Because They Were Jewish. Now We Take Them Because We’re Jewish.

Jewish Social Services has a long history of working with immigrants. In 1976, JSS resettled its first Jewish refugee family from the former Soviet Union. JSS was subcontracted by Jewish Family Services of Milwaukee to resettle this family in Madison. From 1990-2005, JSS resettled 350 Jewish individuals from the former Soviet Union. During that same time, JSS resettled at least another 200 secondary migrants. (Refugees moving from the U.S. state where they were initially resettled to another state during their first 8 months in the U.S.)

In early 2000, JSS started receiving lots of calls from immigrants who were looking for pro bono or sliding scale immigration legal services to help with applications for work authorizations, naturalization and citizenship, and family-based applications. JSS started helping clients access these services and in 2005 JSS became accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals. This accreditation allowed JSS to provide competent immigration legal representation for low-income and indigent persons, thereby promoting the effective and efficient administration of justice.

In 2015, JSS became the first immigration legal services agency to receive funding from Dane County. The program has served over 1,125 clients from 80 different countries. Over time, services expanded to help immigrants who were victims of violence and JSS started serving clients who qualified for the Violence Against Women Act.

JSS Executive Director meets with Madison Deputy Mayor Linda Vakunta

In 2016, JSS became a refugee resettlement affiliate of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, or HIAS. Founded as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society in 1881 to assist Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe, HIAS has touched the lives of nearly every Jewish family in America and now welcomes all who have fled persecution. In December of 2016, JSS resettled its first Syrian refugee family. Since 2016, JSS has resettled 328 individuals and worked with over 30 additional secondary migrants and asylees. These people came from Afghanistan, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Iraq, Burundi, Palestine, Pakistan, The Central African Republic, Rwanda, Vietnam, Somalia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia.

JSS clients and staff participate in a Swahili-speaker group support session.

Today, JSS is the only resettlement agency in South Central Wisconsin. As a result of JSS’ work since 2016, Madison is home to growing and thriving Afghan and Congolese communities and JSS clients are contributing to Madison’s Syrian and Iraqi communities. Starting in 2022, JSS has begun helping many Ukrainian families, most of whom arrive in the United States under UN humanitarian parolee status. We provide a variety of services and resources to help them become self-sufficient and create a safe and stable life in the Dane County area. Demonstrating our growth, in the 2021-2022 fiscal year alone we resettled 143 individuals as well as 18 secondary migrants.

Our walk-in hours are every Thursday from 1-3pm. Please call ahead at 608-442-4081 to schedule an appointment. Eligible populations include:

  • Secondary migrants with refugee status, SIV status, or Afghan humanitarian parole
  • Asylees or asylum seekers
  • Cuban or Haitian Entrants
  • Ukrainian Humanitarian Parolees
  • Nicaraguan Humanitarian Parolees
  • Venezuelan Humanitarian Parolees
  • Victims of human trafficking