The first time I visited Europe I remember feeling that I could easily live here for the rest of my life.  After all, if there wasn’t WWII, my relatives would have never left.  There are the stories of how our Grandparents got to the US and compared to many others they were insanely lucky to get here and get here very early on.

Awhile ago there was an article in the NY Times about a man in Canada who took it on himself to invest millions of dollars in roughly 150 refugees from Syria and bring them to his hometown.  He helped them assimilate, gave them jobs and changed their lives forever.  This has stayed with me and I think about it when conversations around immigrants and refugees take place. What an incredible humanitarian act.

My friend sent me an email about the 60,000 visa holders that has already been heavily vetted by our Government that appear to be in limbo.  Her idea was to get all the people (private citizens) who own planes or have access to them to bring these refugees into our country all on one day.  The already vetted people would just get on the private planes for free and find their lives changed in one fell swoop by coming to America and starting on a new journey.  Of course there has to be more than a plane flight like the guy in Canada did such as helping them find jobs, homes and mentors who could usher them through the challenges of coming to a new land.  It would certainly be a generous gesture and point to embracing diversity as well as providing a helping hand.

British artist Anish Kapoor who recently won the Genesis Prize that includes $1m donated all of it towards the Syrian refugee crisis to expand the efforts of the Jewish community in a global effort to support these people.  The Genesis Prize is known at the “Jewish Nobel” to recognize people who have inspired others with their dedication to the Jewish community.  Like the Canadian, Kapoor is recognizing these refugees and trying to make a difference.  He also just started Hands Off Our Revolution to confront the rise of right-wing populism in the US, Europe and elsewhere through art. Both of these men will be on the right side of history.

Then I read about a documentary called “We Were So Beloved” about the Washington Heights German Jewish community in NYC who escaped or survived the holocaust.  It is Manfred Kirchheimer’s personal documentary.  I have not seen the film but many of these people who survived went on to do great things that made an impact on many when they rebooted their lives in America.  He tells of the immigration laws being changed in 1924 which made the St. Louis ocean liner that had 900 Jewish refugees on it be turned back from Cuba and then the US to return to Germany.  Every single person but one perished on that ship.  I plan on finding this film and watching it.

The one question that Max Frankel asked, who was a childhood friend of Kirchheimer, that we should all be asking ourselves is when you recognize a totalitarian regime or for that matter a leader not doing the humanitarian thing is would you be willing to put your life on the line for decency?

Many people in WWII put their lives on the line to save their Jewish neighbors.  The man in Canada took his own capital to change the lives of others.  As a Canadian he did not have to worry about putting his life on the line. Kapoor is helping fund those in the trenches of helping refugees from Syria.  We helped raised money and awareness by giving money to the ACLU and plan on doing more for other organizations every month.

I am well aware how lucky I am as a white privileged American although Jewish.  My relatives got here.  Not everyone wants to come here but certainly the ones who are living a life of hell in a fascist country do. These people are good hard working people who just want a roof over their heads, food on the table and a safe place to raise their family. Hopefully they will make an impact on the communities around them.  Why should we be turning these people back?  Our nation is a melting pot and we won’t turn that back to something that this administration seems to want or at least his supporters do.  They will all end up on the wrong side of history.  It is painful to watch.  Perhaps I should be looking for those private planes.

Comments (Archived):

  1. Shripriya

    It’s appalling to me how unwelcoming and hateful this administration and its supporters are being. We have issues, yes, and they are hard issues, but none of our problems are because of immigrants (either legal or illegal). When you don’t know how to solve the actual problems, it’s so easy to just point the finger at the “other” and blame everything on them. Oh, things are hard, it’s all “their” fault. The issue is… this will fix nothing. And it will all go horribly. As the 1930s have shown us.Every single person in the United States, besides Native Americans, is an immigrant. The only question is since when.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Everyone is an immigrant. The hatred is something I don’t understand and never will.

      1. Icarus_Ateleta

        GG, do you believe that we should accept illegal immigrants that commit crimes in the US? Should we have any immigration controls at all? If so, wouldn’t you qualify as having hatred toward immigrants? Serious question, maybe I am missing the nuance in your statement that everyone (assuming past, present and future) is an immigrant..In the spirit of JLM’s post, the issue is not as simple as refugee = immigrant, illegal immigrant = “legal” immigrant. Which seems to be how this has been positioned by many.. The words immigration and immigrant are not catch alls for EVERY refugees, illegal immigrant/aliens. Somehow all of these words have lost fidelity in meaning and are being distilled down to “immigrant” or “immigration”. Why? And why now?Believing that we should be judicious, fair and lawful in who we accept into the country is not an act of hate of immigrants/refugees/illegal immigrants or anyone. Seems that language is loaded and precisely what is wrong with any reasonable discourse.Why does our language/positions have to be setup as a zero sum game?BTW, very long time reader – 1st post. Enjoy the blog.

        1. Gotham Gal

          Crimes is one thing. The majority of people being booted out are not criminals. Unless of course your believe Fox News

  2. JLM

    .There is an alarming lack of knowledge as it relates to the differences amongst legal immigration, illegal immigration, and refugees. One could fairly subdivide illegal immigration between simple illegals who have crossed the border and those who have engaged in criminal activities in the US.Currently, there are more than a million deportation orders awaiting execution, many of which are for criminals. These are in existence and the prior administration was simply ignoring them. The current administration is simply enforcing the law.There are another million illegal immigrant criminals awaiting the receipt of a deportation order. Many of these criminals are enmeshed in the ICE/detainer/sanctuary debate.The country is at an 80%+ level of support when it comes to expelling illegal immigrants who have criminal backgrounds. Even illegal immigrants, who are not criminals, poll in overwhelming support of deporting criminal illegal aliens. Countries like Mexico are not enthusiastic as they don’t want their criminals back.As to refugees, the status of a refugee is fact based and requires a finding that an individual is fleeing from war, violence, persecution, natural disaster with an additional flavoring (not required) of unfair or unlawful persecution (race, creed, gender, religion, etc.). Lives must be in danger to be classified as a refugee.As to refugees, the US is not the only port in the storm and with the current flow of refugees coming primarily from the Middle East, it is fair to ask Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain to assist. [These are enormously wealthy countries that share the same language, culture, religion, climate and geography as, say, Syrian refugees, but who have taken ZERO refugees. This is inexplicable. One of Pres Trump’s first calls was to the King of Saudi Arabia to ask him to set up refugee reception areas in his country, to which proposition he agreed. Real progress.]American leadership and United Nations (American funded primarily) refugee programs do not require this to become an immigration issue. Many refugees (as was done in WWII, the Korean War, the Balkan crisis, Kosovo) can rely upon local re-settlement efforts.As to legal immigration, the basis of our successful programs has been the admission of selected immigrants whose motivation and inspiration is to contribute to their new country, to learn English, to assimilate, to raise their children as Americans, and to otherwise leap into the teaming mass of the American melting pot.Immigration has never been about creating enclaves or unassimilated neighborhoods which continue the culture of the former home country of immigrants. If so, why did they leave in the first place?To resolve this in a calm manner, we have to subdivide the issues to allow the ones that should be devoid of contention to be pursued independently. The more we can subdivide and solve the problems, the less fractious energy will be expended in the process and the more we can focus on real resolutions.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  3. Erin

    Inspiring writing, Joanne! This makes me think of how the Christian mystic Henri Nouwen interpreted the invocation to communion in Matthew 26:26: “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it, He broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is My Body.” Nouwen believes deep down, everyone wants to be that communion bread for others. We want to be taken [by God, or your conscience or sense of compassion], broken, blessed and given for others. We all want our lives to mean something and as we stand at the pearly gates, we want the judgement to be that our life was used to make the world a better place.

  4. jason wright

    where in Europe did your relatives come from?

    1. Gotham Gal

      all over. Poland, Germany, Russia, England and randomly Sweden.