Through the Golden Door: Chinese and Jewish Refugees and Immigrants in New York

Material Description

This project focuses on those who sought passage through the “golden door,” the striking image from Emma Lazarus’s poem that adorns the Statue of Liberty. The first set of materials from the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) at the Center for Jewish History stems from the most significant organization to assist Jews fleeing Europe in the 20th century, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS). The HIAS Records document the organization’s original work assisting Jewish people escaping the pogroms of the Russian Empire and its growth to international importance around World War II. To complement these materials, two smaller collections will also be digitized: the United Service for New Americans Records and the Cecilia Razovsky Papers. The materials from the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) include three at-risk collections of scholarly value, cultural significance, and contemporary relevance. The first and second are the runs of two newspapers published by and for New York Chinese immigrant communities during the 1950s-1980s. After China allied with the United States in World War II, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was repealed and a crucial period of new immigration began. The newspapers reflect the impact of this legislative change against the backdrop of international tensions during the Cold War. The third collection from MOCA is the Fly to Freedom Collection of intricate paper sculptures. Created in the 1990s by Chinese asylum-seekers detained by US immigration authorities, the paper sculptures in the collection represent American symbols and express the pain of exclusion.


“Through the Golden Door” will digitize at-risk collections that illuminate formerly understudied aspects of immigrant and refugee experience. The Center for Jewish History will digitize materials from its in-house partner American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) and project partner the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA). The AJHS selections are from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) Records, Cecilia Razovsky Papers, and United Service for New Americans Records. From MOCA the Center will digitize the Fly to Freedom Collection of paper sculptures and two Chinese-American newspapers that demonstrate a shifting cultural landscape against the backdrop of the Cold War. The collections are significant to studies of the impact of US legislation on individuals and communities here and abroad; American responses to the persecution of European Jews; artistic expressions of conflicting identities; and print culture and community formation. They will provide a historical dimension to fierce debates on US policies of exclusion.


Digitizing Hidden Collections

Amount Awarded


Year Added



Center for Jewish History


  • Ms. Rachel Miller
  • Ms. Yue Ma

Collaborating Institution(s)

Museum of Chinese in America

Date Range

1909 - 1909

Geographic Scope

New York City, York County prison in Pennsylvania (the only location outside of New York where Fly to Freedom detainees were held)


  • 29.5 Mixed Archival Collections