Accused Pittsburgh gunman posted online about HIAS, an agency known for work with refugees

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By Farnoush Amiri

The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, or HIAS, known for its resettlement work in the United States and internationally, is one of the oldest refugee protection agencies in the country. The organization became part of the national conversation Saturday after the man accused of shooting and killing 11 at a synagogue in Pittsburgh appeared to have referred to the group online.

In a post on the social network Gab, the accused shooter, Robert Bowers, 46, linked to a directory of synagogues participating in a HIAS event, National Refugee Shabbat, saying he “appreciated” the list. As part of the elaborate anti-Semitic conspiracy theory to which he subscribed — which prosecutors say motivated his crime — Bowers claimed that HIAS was working to bring people to the United States to do violence.

Founded in 1881 as a storefront on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the organization began as a mission to help Eastern European Jews who were fleeing anti-Semitism and war.

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