The story is similar on my mother’s side. One branch has been described to me as Austrian; in fact, they came from Skole in today’s Ukraine. The other was Hungarian and came from Sighet (Elie Wiesel’s hometown) in Transylvania, now a province of Romania. During my Thanksgiving Meal Speech, I also thank my wife’s family, who came from Vienna, Poland, and Russia. In reality, the first point of identification in terms of culture and identity for all these people was not the country of origin on their passport, but the fact that they were members of the Jewish people, regardless of any level. particular belief or religiosity.
In addition to being Jews, the ancestors of the family that I will recognize were, of course, Americans as well. And that’s the other part of the thanks I will return for the holidays. I am grateful that my ancestors had a place to go, that they could become Americans and make a living here.
The last of them came right under the thread, arriving a few months after World War I and only a few years before a series of severely immigration “reforms”. limit the number of immigrants our country has accepted from outside the British Isles and North West Europe. My wife’s grandmother’s family left Poland in 1937 — and only because the youngest child was born here (that’s a long story); one of the oldest living “baby anchors” I guess. Very few Jews were able to find refuge here then and immediately after, during the years when they needed it most.
I make sure my children know about these immigration restrictions, as well as the fact that people from Asia had almost no chance to emigrate and to become American citizens until the early 1950s. We are also talking about how – although their ancestors and other Jewish immigrants certainly did not have it easy – they at least had opportunities that America did. denied to the large number of African Americans and American Indians who had arrived long before our family. America has not treated everyone the same, either on paper or in practice. Certainly, as the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and too many others have reminded us of, we still have room for improvement on this front, to say the least, although we have come a long way thanks. to those heroes who fought and bled to get us as far as we have come.
Over the course of four long years, the twice-indicted ex-man has made the process of coming here much more difficult, much more treacherous, for refugees and asylum seekers. But luckily the man who lost an election and tried to steal it was unsuccessful in this endeavor, and we have a new president who is much more human. This is something my family and I are deeply grateful for, for so many reasons.
Compare Trump with the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) from Pennsylvania, who for 13 years have hosted Thanksgiving Event in Philadelphia specifically for immigrants, although it will be virtual again this year thanks, if that is the word, to the pandemic. Over 100 people share the holiday meal in 2019:
Vanessa, who declined to give her last name, said the event was exactly what she and her family needed after being threatened with deportation.
“We couldn’t miss it today, because recently my parents were being deported,” she said.
Vanessa says she’s thankful her family can stay together just in time for the holidays.
If this organization sounds familiar to you, maybe it’s because of the tremendous work it does on behalf of immigrants, or maybe it’s because the terrorist who killed 11 Jews at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in particular noted HIAS in an article a few hours before committing this mass murder:
A few hours before start the fire in a Pittsburgh Synagogue, Robert Bowers, the alleged shooter, posted on the Gab social network, “DECORATE likes to bring in invaders who kill our people. I cannot sit and watch my people being slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in. DECORATE is the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and Bowers had already spoken about it at least once. Two and a half weeks earlier, he had bonded with a DECORATE project called National Refugee Shabbat and writes, “Why hello over there DECORATE! Do you like bringing hostile invaders among us? Another article that most likely referred to DECORATE read: “Open your eyes!” This is the dirty WRONG Jews bringing the dirty WRONG Muslims in the country !! “
So while I am grateful to our country for welcoming my family and so many others, I am aware that not everyone is approved of America’s generosity, or of the support that the Jews generally showed it. There is another person, whose family is also Jewish and originally from Eastern Europe, who expressed a feeling of gratitude that reminded me of mine. This person did so as part of his testimony in an impeachment inquiry focused on Donald Trump. He owns face the anti-semitism of Orange fuck and his allies in retaliation for stepping forward and telling the truth. here are the words from Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Vindman, words that make me proud to share my heritage with this man:
Next month will mark the 40th anniversary of my family’s arrival in the United States as a refugee. When my father was 47, he left behind his entire life and the only home he had ever known to start over in the United States so that his three sons could have better and more secure lives. His courageous decision inspired a deep sense of gratitude to my brothers and myself and instilled in us a sense of duty and service. All three of us have served or are currently serving in the military. Our collective military service is a special part of our family’s history in America.
I also recognize that my simple act of appearing here today, as well as the courage of my colleagues who have also testified honestly before this committee, would not be tolerated in many places around the world. In Russia, my act of expressing my concerns to the chain of command in an official and private channel would have serious personal and professional repercussions and to offer public testimony involving the President would surely cost me my life. I am grateful for my father’s courageous act of hope 40 years ago and for the privilege of being a U.S. citizen and public servant, where I can live without fear for my safety and that of my family.
Dad, the fact that I am sitting here today on the United States Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision forty years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the States. -United America in search of a better life for our family. Don’t worry, I’ll be good to tell the truth.
Thanksgiving – at least in the form we celebrate in this country – is an American invention, and also a celebration on each of our dealings with America and with our fellow Americans. It means different things to different people, depending on how their ancestors were treated. For me America is my home, the only one I have. This is the place that made my life and my family possible. My belonging to the American people, to the American national community, is at the heart of my identity.
We live in a time when, once again, the demagogues are playing on our deepest fears to oppose the reception of people fleeing oppression in their country of origin, as was the case in 1939. Demagogues also question the loyalty of American Jews born elsewhere, as was the case in the Dreyfus affair over a century ago. I am truly grateful for what America has done for me: welcome my ancestors when they needed a place to go. I know there are many more who will end up being a lot less fortunate. They are the ones we must fight for now.