Posts tagged " immigration "

A Nation of Immigrants

August 2nd, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 30 comments

This week I read a number of disparate articles and books from a variety of different sources.  As so often happens, they all turned out to be interconnected. Each one provided me with perspective on the great immigration debate raging not only in the United States, but in Europe as well.

Looking for something to read online one night, I logged onto my library account and scrolled through the “available now for download” book section. With apologies to Lidia Bastianich, I had never heard of the Italian chef, but the title of her book, My American Dream, caught my eye. The book, especially the story of her childhood, did not disappoint.

Ms. Bastianich’s family lived in an area of Italy that after World War II came under the control of Yugoslavia. As Communist rule expanded her parents made the decision to abandon their comfortable life and large extended family, and become refugees. While the mother and two children, including nine-year-old Lidia, went by train ostensibly for a short visit to relatives in Italy proper, the father escaped via a dangerous, harrowing trek, evading the regime’s police.

My American Dream describes the family’s spartan and uncomfortable life in the refugee camp in Italy, the grueling process they went through to be admitted to the United States and the years of struggle to rebuild their lives in a country whose language and culture they needed to learn. Their support system was Catholic Charities, neighbors and relatives. Ms. Bastianich’s recognition of her parents’ sacrifice so that she and her brother could have a better life and her honest portrayal of how difficult their path was is honest and moving.

With some embarrassment, I  must admit to knowing little of Josip Tito, or the Yugoslavia/Italy connection before reading that book. But with Italy on my mind, an article in the Wall Street Journal about Italian-born race-car driver Mario Andretti (whose name I did recognize) caught my eye. He spoke of the same time and place in history, when his family lived for seven years – seven years! – in a refugee camp in Tuscany.  For four of those years they  shared a room with nine families while awaiting permission to immigrate to the United States. Mr. Andretti, like Ms. Bastianich, was full of gratitude to his parents and appreciation to the country that took them in.

The third story came from the NRA’s America’s 1st Freedom magazine. It had nothing to do with immigration, but told of a recent hero, Bryan Whittle of Oklahoma City. While driving, he saw a commotion on the side of the road. Thinking that he might be able to help he pulled over and quickly realized that a gunman was shooting at restaurant patrons. Mr. Whittle pulled his own gun, shouted at the gunman to put down his weapon, and when that didn’t happen shot at the murderer, saving the lives of the fleeing customers.

When the police arrived, they initially handcuffed Mr. Whittle and another good Samaritan on the scene who also had his gun out. Obviously, as the witnesses told the story both armed citizens were quickly released and celebrated. (Funny, isn’t it, how the story didn’t make it onto the front pages of national newspapers and into headline news online – yes, I’m being sarcastic.) Mr. Whittle was appreciative for the chance to help others and completely understood that the police needed to secure the area before they could take the time to evaluate the situation and understand that he was a good guy.

This story along with those of Ms. Bastianich and Mr. Andretti,  laid the background for the fourth story I read. On the surface, the article in a liberal magazine was about illegal immigration into the United States. I wouldn’t call it investigative reporting as much as propaganda. In my opinion, it was intended to engage my emotions, provoke me to despise President Trump, confirm that anyone who votes Republican is deplorable and motivate me to get to the polls in November and vote for the Democrats.

What paragraph in the story caught my eye? A young man was quoted who was seeking asylum in the United States because of fears that he would be put to death for homosexual behavior in his own country. After illegally entering this country, he made his claim for asylum. At that point he was handcuffed and separated from the other illegal immigrants to be processed differently. What was his reaction? Gratitude for reaching the United States and potentially being given a safe haven? No – it was embarrassment  and upset at being handcuffed, and presumably the reader is meant to be outraged at that treatment.

Are you kidding me? I don’t think that we must make refugees, potential immigrants or asylum seekers suffer just because people did in the past. But we need to be extremely careful that crossing the border illegally or declaring oneself a refugee or asylum seeker isn’t a way to short-circuit the legal immigration process. Those are drastic measures, not ways to evade the system. Each country has a right to choose immigrants who will help, not destroy or drain it. Humility, gratitude, respect for the laws of the land and a desire to serve one’s neighbors seem to be valid basic requirements to increase the chances having more successful immigration stories and heroes like Bryan Whittle among us.

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Through No Fault of Their Own

January 25th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 62 comments

Sometimes, phrases get repeated often enough that they become widely accepted. This doesn’t mean that they are true. I’m not talking about deliberate untruths as in Nazi Joseph Goebbels’ statement, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” I am talking about words we think of as truisms, ones that are often faulty, but which we casually accept as reality.

For example, I remember a friend responding with, “Where there’s smoke there’s fire,” when hard-to-believe rumors surfaced of scandalous behavior by a local religious leader. We all know too well today of the danger in ignoring horrible behavior that must be addressed.  However, inverting America’s legal principle into “Guilty until proven innocent”  places titanic power in the hands of the hate-filled, the overzealous, careless, or even just the  mistaken. One venomous tweet today can destroy a perfectly innocent life. Automatically believing that, “Where there’s smoke there’s fire,” substitutes one injustice for another.

With the discussion of DACA front and center, one repeatedly hears that the Dreamers (a politically brilliant term that obscures the issue) came to the United States illegally through, “…no fault of their own.” We aren’t really talking about fault; we mean that the illegal action of entering or remaining in the country was not actively theirs. Their parents made a choice that placed them in that position.

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Immigration and the Protesting Rabbis

February 27th, 2017 Posted by AAJC Happenings 2 comments

On Monday, February 6, some 200 rabbis and rabbinical students protested outside Trump International Hotel in Manhattan.   19 of them blocked traffic and were arrested for disorderly conduct.  The group was protesting President Trump’s executive order placing a 90-day hold on immigration from seven countries which lack adequate security programs to vet the peaceful nature of visa holders: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of Teru’ah, the left-wing rabbinical group that organized the protest, said it was meant to show that many Jews oppose the ban.

“We remember our history, and we remember that the border of this country closed to us in 1924, with very catastrophic consequences during the Holocaust.  We know that some of the language that’s being used now to stop the Muslims from coming is the same language that was used to stop Jewish refugees from coming“, she said. 

As the great-grandson of a rabbi who immigrated to the United States in 1924 because of religious persecution, these words caught my attention.

My Zaida, Rabbi Jacob A. Dubrow, was a rabbi in the Vinnitsa region of Ukraine.  During the Russian Civil War, he was marked for death by Ukrainian Whites.  Fleeing to a large city he survived the threat, but was at risk for deportation to Siberia when the Reds were victorious.  He escaped Ukraine and acquired a hard-to-get visa to the United States.  His wife and daughters followed and arrived in New York in 1926.

I wonder what Zaida would have said about the travel ban.

Zaida was a Lubavitcher chasid, an Orthodox Jew.  He passed away decades before I was born; even my father knew him only as a child.  Nonetheless, having followed in his path as an Orthodox rabbi, and having close friends within the Lubavitch movement, I am confident I know what he would have said.

Zaida was a quiet man, a scholar.  He was thoughtful, benevolent, but firm.

Undoubtedly, he would have been against a blanket ban on immigration from war torn countries. He would have advocated that America accept peaceful refugees of war seeking a better life for their families.  He would have supported families being allowed to reunite; without that, my grandmother and her sisters would have never been allowed to join him in the United States.

Yet, he was a wise man.  He would not have supported, for example, the immigration of the Ukrainian Cossacks who tried to kill him.  His passion for justice would have led him to do all he could to stop barbarous murderers from entering this country.  Being benevolent does not mean being a fool.

Zaida would not have relied on a letter from Cossack leader Admiral Alexander Kolchak, certifying that a potential immigrant was upstanding.  He would have advocated a vetting system to make sure people from cultures that embrace murder and mayhem, were indeed peaceful and of law abiding.

A rabbi who escaped death by telling his neighbors he was traveling north and instead travelled south, would have never accepted the liberal concept that all people are inherently good, that all humanity would be sweet as apple pie if only we welcome them into our homes.  Zaida saw human beings at their worst, and he would have passionately advocated keeping those who embraced evil away from these hallowed shores.

The very notion that the United States should rely on Iran – a country that threatens to destroy Israel and America – to vet visa holders to make sure they don’t want to destroy America, is madness.  The idea that Syria, Sudan and Somalia have the will and ability to separate 100 Muhammad Attas from 1000 of his peaceful coreligionists is absurd.

Ignoring evil is not a Jewish concept.  It is a liberal concept.  Liberal rabbis protesting in support of unchecked immigration from countries where large swaths of the population seek to destroy the West are sorely misguided. To be Jewish is to be benevolent.  But to be Jewish is to recognize the reality of good and evil.  Judaism values doing good, selfless and endless good – within the context of supporting good and destroying evil.  Sadly, those who don’t recognize the reality of evil are least prepared to stand against it.

I pray that God give President Trump the strength and fortitude to protect the citizens of this great country, and that America continues, for centuries to come, to accept millions of peaceful immigrants, whatever their religion or lack thereof, who embrace the Judeo-Christian values that have made this country great.

This article appeared first in The Jewish Press.

On Rabbis and Immigration (Guest Musing)

February 16th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 33 comments

I am delighted to share my Musing platform with Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt. You will soon hear more about Rabbi Rosenblatt who we are delighted to welcome as director of the American Alliance of Jews and Christians (AAJC). He shares our passion for and commitment to an America firmly based on Judeo-Christian values. Like us, he is deeply troubled when Judaism is misrepresented as modern liberalism. He was moved to compose the following piece.

On Monday, February 6, some 200 rabbis and rabbinical students protested outside Trump International Hotel in Manhattan.   19 of them blocked traffic and were arrested for disorderly conduct.  The group was protesting President Trump’s executive order placing a 90-day hold on immigration from seven countries which lack adequate security programs to vet the peaceful nature of visa holders: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of Teru’ah, the left-wing rabbinical group that organized the protest, said it was meant to show that many Jews oppose the ban.

“We remember our history, and we remember that the border of this country closed to us in 1924, with very catastrophic consequences during the Holocaust.  We know that some of the language that’s being used now to stop the Muslims from coming is the same language that was used to stop Jewish refugees from coming“, she said. 

As the great-grandson of a rabbi who immigrated to the United States in 1924 because of religious persecution, these words caught my attention.

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