World War II was a time when Jews were trying to get out of Germany as quickly as possible. Many places were not welcoming of them and finding refuge was hard to come by. Since the Nazi government declared large massacres against the Jews, they really had no way out.
In the late 1930’s, a cigar manufacturer from Cincinnati named Alex Frieder was residing in the Philippines. After seeing Jewish refugees stranded at the ports of the Philippines, he and his three brothers created the Jewish Refugee Committee. Frieder and his brothers convinced their close friend, first Commonwealth of the Philippines president, Manuel L. Quezon, to allow these refugees the right to obtain a passport and a visa to enter the Philippines. This resulted in 1,200 German and Austrian Jewish refugees residing in the Philippines.
During the era of the Philippine Commonwealth (1935-1946), many Jewish refugees from Europe safely found shelter in Manila. These Jewish refugees that escaped from Europe marked the last major immigration of Jews to the Philippines. Before World War II, there were signs of Jewish people from the Jews of Spain. Jewish people in the Philippines traced back to the 16th century even. The first Jews that arrived in the Philippines around this time were Shanghai Jews. Later, the German Jews found protection in Manila, and word got back to The Refugee Economic Corporation in New York. This led to the distribution of relief through funds from the American Jewish community to the German Jews in Manila.
A lot of discussion went between the Refugee Economic Corporation (REC) and the High Commissioner of the Philippines, McNutt, inquiring the allowance of these German Jewish families to settle in the Philippines. McNutt and the Commonwealth officials were sympathetic and allowed the REC to work with the Commonwealth in aiding these Jewish refugees. Commissioner McNutt only wanted the best for the Philippines so future immigration plans were changed to receive refugees that helped to the overall well being of the country.
After much debate and compromise, the first wave of immigrants that came under the McNutt-Frieder program arrived in Manila in September of 1938. With this first wave of immigration was the arrival of a German Rabbi. He was the first ordained rabbi to ever reside in the Philippines. After this, the Jewish community in Manila received more families of immigrants and by May of 1939, the Philippine Jewish Community grew by 750 more refugees, resulting in a population over 1000 Jews in Manila.