Estranged in a Familiar Land This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

January 10, 2013
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A recent school assembly with Judy Meisel struck upon many of the feelings that my great grandmother and then young grandmother experienced. They were estranged by anti-Semitism in Russia, and country where they had lived in for the entirety of their lives. Even following World War II, anti-Semitic sentiments were high. Along with poor conditions, discrimination was a deciding factor for my parents and grandparents to leave Russia for America.

However, the parallels between Judy Meisel’s life and my family’s experiences were not the most memorable parts of her story. After arriving in America, Ms. Meisel played an important role in the civil rights movement. Her sympathy for African Americans most likely draws from her understanding of the terrors of discrimination. It is logical, to me, that her impetus to help arose from her empathy. I’ve come to realize that, sadly, her kind feelings towards African Americans are rare amongst immigrants.

There is so much discrimination that has been exposed, especially, during the current election. I see it in certain things one of my grandmothers says about Obama. “He will only be helping the blacks” or “his people,” she sometimes says. It’s slightly appalling to me that she cannot draw the parallels between her experiences and the current discrimination in America. She is not alone. Much of Russian-American media pushes that our president is “anti-Semetic” or forging his birth certificate, and many Jewish-Russian immigrants fall for this extremism.

While the comparison I make between then and now is a clear exaggeration, it still shocks me that the people who were the victims of discrimination are now the perpetrators. On the other hand, perhaps there is reason, whether conscious or not, behind these bizarre accusations. Maybe its is an attempt to turn the spotlight off the Jewish community or perhaps it is a nasty inherit quality of humans to look down on others.

Despite the reason, I think that the people guilty of discriminating must realize how they would feel in such a situation. It seems like the logical thing to do but so many have failed to do what Judy Meisel has done and use their past to improve the future.

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