congregant stories

I Came Here to Work

It’s impossible to tell Yan’s powerful immigration story without beginning with his parents’ stories, as they may explain Yan’s incredible resilience, perseverance, and passion. When Yan’s father was just six years old, his parents were killed in a Jewish pogrom during the post-Bolshevik Revolution Civil War. He and his brother somehow survived in the streets of Odessa, Ukraine. Yan’s father went on to be a Russian Naval hero, who two times saved the wounded captains of ships that had been struck by enemy fire. Yan’s mother was also left without a father when she was just a child. Her father was accused of anti-Soviet actions, arrested and sent to a GULAG camp during Stalin’s repressions, where he vanished without a trace. The family was stripped of everything they owned and declared the “Enemies of the People”.

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The Bounties of America

Eight-year-old Michael Schmerler stood in the produce section of an Ohio grocery store and marveled at the seemingly endless supply of fruits and vegetables. His childhood experience reminds us all to be appreciative of all we have. “People here complain about silly things, but they have no idea how bad it can be. In Poland, we had to be at the grocer at 5:00 a.m. to grab maybe one apple. I never even saw a banana in Poland, but here there were racks of them! The pleasures of America are so bountiful.”

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Monique Rothschild: Grateful Every Day

How It Began. My parents were German Jews who didn’t know each other in Germany. Coincidentally, they both left Germany on the same day in 1933. As fierce Libertarians, they left for freedom of expression, after seeing overt signs of Nazism. My father, a renowned journalist who had openly criticized Hitler, was even on a watch list. They each went to Paris, where many intellectuals went, and met at a literary cafe. Everything changed when Germany invaded France in 1940.

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Photos Are Her Prized Possessions

At age 13, Ora left Israel with her family and immigrated to Montreal, Canada. But she boarded the plane with a secret. Tucked inside her underwear, hidden from security and from her mother, were three black and white photos.

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A Better Life

In a country where military dictators ruled, a “better life” seemed an elusive, if not impossible, dream. But Claudio Hanna’s father was intent upon just that. Claudio was six when his family moved from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Sao Paulo, Brazil.

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