Lillian Kasondorf Kavey helped immigrants escape Eastern Europe by cutting the red tape that prevented their relatives from saving enough money to bring them to America. Kavey opened a pawn shop and loan office in Port Chester, but after discovering that many of her customers were trying to save but didn’t trust banks, she changed her business to a combination loan office and travel agency. Clients would invest money with her, and when it reached a certain amount, she used the money to buy tickets to bring their relatives over from Eastern Europe, even travelling regularly to Ellis Island to help the new arrivals navigate the bureaucracy there. In 1913, she became the first woman granted a banking license in New York and opened her own official bank with her husband and later their sons. During vacations in the Mediterranean and the Baltic in the 1930s, she secured affidavits for 125 families to emigrate, and beginning in 1923 devoted decades to helping Ethiopian Jews by buying them farm equipment and lobbying for them to immigrate to Israel, laying the groundwork for later advocates. On a local level, she also founded the Jewish Community Center of Port Chester and created two boys’ clubs during WWII.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Lillian Kasindorf Kavey." (Viewed on May 21, 2019) <https://jwa.org/people/kavey-lillian>.