Meet the Rosenzweigs- 1903
July 1903: A man, a Jewish cigar maker born and raised in the motherland, makes a tough, but valiant decision. He returns to his home in Warsaw, then part of the Soviet Union and a future ghetto to his people, and tells his wife and three children that they are leaving on a quest for a new life. Behind, he’d leave his home and the rest of his family. But in return, he would find opportunity.
August 1903: A large steamboat makes a stop on Ellis Island, taking careful count of every migrant hopeful in their pursuits of the American dream. The man, accompanied by his family, etches names into a book which would account for the many others like him. Hyman Rosenzweig: Head of Family. Yetta: Spouse. Benjamin: Son. Isidor: Son. Matilda: Daughter.
January 12, 1909: Hyman and Yetta bring in what would be their final child to the world. After the birth of Samuel in 1905, Julius would be the last to carry on the Rosenzweig family name. But in the end, neither he nor Samuel would do so. Both would change their name in adulthood to something more likely to be considered normal in the states.
Present Day: Through Julius (who would later change his legal first name to Jules), he gave life to Diane and Paul. Paul inherited a small giftware business from his dear father Jules and made it a global company, operating with offices ranging from London to Hong Kong. Paul would also happily marry, having five children including the author of this masterpiece you are currently perusing.
Hyman tells the story of an immigrant in pursuit of the American dream, a dream constantly scrutinized and supposedly debunked through the years. It’s an elusive fantasy in our works of literature such as The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and modern cinema such as the Oliver Stone masterpiece Scarface. Yet the journey of Hyman Rosenzweig tells a different story; it proves that a man can thrive in a pursuit for greater opportunity; it proves that rags to riches is not a principle of fiction; it shows there is an American dream.
Meet America- 2016
America, once a world symbol for providing opportunities of a lifetime, is slowly closing its gates. It now requires visas, green cards, and other things to deem you worthy of its dream. And soon, the nearly 150 million people Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and even all of the 1.6 billion followers of Islam may be stripped of this potential dream now-certainly-turned fantasy.
Modern conservatism has turned to nationalism, a belief that there is no difference between self-dependence and isolation. It holds a belief that a bad minority defines a far larger majority. In particular, they believe that the minority of Muslims that are terrorist define all Muslims, and in some cases they believe all Muslims know what other Muslims are thinking. Of the 1.6 billion followers of Islam, the Pew Research center says that .00006625% define themselves as extremists. That number rounds up to about 106,000 Muslim extremists in a world of over 7 billion people.
This rhetoric is born out of fear of the unknown. Our history has been laced with use of this political dialogue that picks up steam by pandering to the fears and frustrations of the people, but none of which fostered any positive change. It was born from Joseph McCarthy, a former senator who threw out numerous threats and accusations regarding other members of congress, the media, and the Soviet Union throughout the fifties and sixties. The practice of McCarthyism, a term born from his name, is heavily scrutinized today as the practice of placing baseless premonitions of fear above common sense. If Americans believed all of McCarthy’s rhetoric dating back many decades, the Rosenzweigs would never have made it to New York. If Americans believed all Germans were Nazis, many German Jews would never have survived the holocaust. If we choose to believe all Muslims are terrorists, what will be the impact? How many innocent Muslims living in fear will be left to die? How many eager foreign learners will be deprived the opportunity of an American education? How many victims of war will be left behind to suffer? How many hopefuls will be deprived of this American dream? More importantly, if we allow ourselves to close our borders—a waving of the white flag signaling defeat to our true enemies—how can we call ourselves Americans?