Serving Palestinian Communities for 55 Years

Many Palestinians remember June 5 as the “Naksa” or “setback”, marking the 1967 war that displaced a new generation of Palestinian families. The resulting second Palestinian exodus and refugee crisis was the original motivation behind starting Anera.

The most influential organization created in response to this refugee crisis was Near East Emergency Donations (NEED). NEED was an American corporate initiative responding to high-level political encouragement for large-scale assistance to Palestinian refugees. Former Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Harry Truman became honorary co-chairmen of NEED, and Time, Inc. President James A. Linen became NEED’s president. NEED made clear its intention to raise as much money as it could in a short time, give it away, and go out of business. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) was the principal recipient of NEED’s estimated $10 million distribution, but a portion went to a fledgling organization called Anera.

Founded by a small group of influential Arab-Americans in 1968, American Near East Refugee Aid (or Anera) combined the efforts of previously existing Palestinian aid organizations. The groups who made a tentative commitment to be the founding members of Anera were the American Friends of the Middle East (AFME) in Washington, D.C., the American Middle East Rehabilitation (AMER) in New York (discussed above), the Arab Emergency Relief Committee in D.C., the Arab Refugee Relief Agency in Michigan, the Islamic Foundation in Southern California, US OMEN in California, and the United Arab-American Appeal in Massachusetts. Using the funds donated by NEED, Anera began decades of committed work responding to the critical needs of the Palestinian people.

“I wrapped up my affairs in Beirut in July and returned to Washington, where we opened the first Anera office on August 12, 1968. Jim Sams [Anera founder] had rented office space in a handsome but somewhat rundown structure anchoring the southeast corner of 15th and H Street in what was then called Washington’s financial district. I remember that early on we purchased a heavy office safe and were trying to figure out where to put it. While I studied the situation, Dr. Davis [Anera’s first president], a white-haired, dignified man, single-handedly pushed the safe across the office floor to its final location. Anera only had four staff in those days.” – John Richardson, First Executive Director & Second President of Anera (Photo: Allenby Bridge, Jordan, 1967)

Today with a staff of 110 development professionals throughout Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan, Anera is able to respond to the critical needs of Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese and Jordanians. We are proud that our roots are in both Palestine and the United States. Although Anera has grown in capacity to help other vulnerable communities in the Levant, we will always remain grounded in our dedication to Palestinian refugees and their issues.

Learn more about Anera’s early history from Anera’s First Executive Director, John Richardson’s booklet How Anera Came to Be.



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