On Thanksgiving, I remember my Jewish ancestors who left Europe and I’m grateful that America welcomed them.

The story is similar on my mother’s side. One branch was described to me as Austrian; in fact, they came from Skole in today’s Ukraine. The other was Hungarian and came from Sighet (hometown of Elie Wiesel) in Transylvania, now a province of Romania. During my Thanksgiving meal, 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 creed or religiosity.

In addition to being Jewish, the ancestors of the family that I will recognize were also, of course, American. And that’s the other part of the thanks I’ll be giving over the holidays. I’m grateful that my ancestors had a place to go, that they were able to become Americans and make a living here.

The last of them came just under the wire, arriving months after World War I and only a few years before a series of harsh 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 (it’s a long story); one of the oldest living “baby anchors” I presume. Very few Jews were able to find refuge here then and immediately after – during the years when they needed it most.

I make sure that my children know about these immigration restrictions, as well as the fact that people from Asia had almost no chance of emigrating and become American citizens until the early 1950s. We also talk about how – although their ancestors and other Jewish immigrants certainly did not have it easy – they at least had opportunities that America has denied to the large numbers of African Americans and Native Americans who had arrived long before our family. America has not treated everyone the same, either on paper or in practice. Certainly, like the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Patrick Lyoya, and too many others have reminded us, we still have room for improvement on that front as well, to say the least, although we’ve come a long way thanks to these heroes who fought and bled to get us as far as we’ve come.

Over four long years, the twice-deposed former has made the process of coming here much more difficult, much more treacherous, for refugees and asylum seekers. But thankfully, The Man Who Lost an Election and Tried to Steal It was unsuccessful in that endeavor, and now we have a much more humane President, the one who led the Democratic Party to its best mid-term performance ever. tenure in six decades. These are developments for which my family and I are deeply grateful, for many reasons.

Compare Trump with the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) of Pennsylvania, who for more than a decade have hosted Thanksgiving an event in Philadelphia specifically for immigrants. More than 100 people share the holiday meal in 2019:

Vanessa, who declined to give her last name, says the event is just what she and her family needed after being threatened with eviction.

“We couldn’t miss it today because recently my parents were in eviction court,” she said.

Vanessa says she’s grateful her family can stay together just in time for the holidays.

If this organization sounds familiar to you, maybe it’s because of the wonderful work it does on behalf of immigrants, or maybe because the terrorist who killed 11 Jews at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in particular mentioned HIAS in a message just hours before committing this mass murder:

A few hours before start the fire in a Pittsburgh SynagogueRobert Bowers, the alleged shooter, posted on the Gab social network, “HIAS likes to bring invaders who kill our people. I can’t sit and watch my people being slaughtered. Screw your optics, I enter. HIAS is the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and Bowers had already spoken about it at least once. Two and a half weeks earlier, he had linked to a HIAS project called National Refugee Shabbat and wrote, “Why hello there HIAS! Do you like bringing hostile invaders to dwell among us? Another post that most likely referred to HIAS read: “Open your eyes! It’s 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 everyone approved of the generosity of America, or the support that the Jews generally showed to her. There is another person, whose family is also Jewish and originally from Eastern Europe, who expressed a feeling of gratitude that reminded me of my own. This person did so in the context of coming forward to testify in an impeachment inquiry focused on Donald Trump. He has faces the anti-Semitism of Tangerine Palpatine and his allies in retaliation for coming forward and telling the truth. here are the words of Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Vindman, words that make me proud to share my heritage with this man:

Next month will mark 40 years since my family came to the United States as refugees. 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, safer lives. His courageous decision inspired a deep sense of gratitude in my brothers and myself and instilled in us a sense of duty and service. All three of us served or are currently serving in the military. Our collective military service is a special part of our family history in America.

I also recognize that my simple act of appearing here today, like the courage of my colleagues who have also testified sincerely before this committee, would not be tolerated in many places around the world. In Russia, my act of raising my concerns to the chain of command through an official and private channel would have serious personal and professional repercussions and offering public testimony implicating 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 an American citizen and public servant, where I can live without fear for my safety and that of my family.

Dad, my session here today at the United States Capitol to speak 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 United States of America looking for a better life for our family. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine to tell the truth.

Thanksgiving – at least in the form we celebrate in this country – is an American invention, and also a celebration of our every relationship 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, the diverse but singular American national community, is central to my identity.

We live in a time when, once again, 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, just as they did in Dreyfus Affair more than a century ago. Antisemitism is on the rise across the political and ideological spectrum, although the most dangerous anti-Jewish hatred come from the right wing.

I am truly grateful for what America has done for me: welcoming my ancestors when they needed a place to go. I know many others will end up being far less fortunate. They are the ones we must fight for now.

This is an updated version of a piece I have job in recent years at Thanksgiving.

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