My Family Came as Refugees

By: Neta Chizhik  |  February 3, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 11.07.55 AMMy family came to this country as refugees. Yes, a Jewish family. Yes, in the more recent years. Try the 1980’s-90’s. They were leaving the Soviet Union, an oppressive regime, for the United States, a country of foreign nature, but which promised opportunities and liberties. When they came, after months of rejection, bureaucratic difficulties, social isolation and extended travels, they studied English, pursued educations and degrees, became professionals in varying fields and raised families which flourished from such an abundance of opportunities.

They came and they didn’t abandon their culture, their language or their heritage. They were Jewish but they were also Russian, with a different sense of humor, cuisine, rich literature and history, drinking preference…

Once they immigrated, they too joined the marches to free Soviet Jewry. And just as they did so in the ’80’s, I went and protested similar bans, ones being implemented by the very government that once, not all too long ago, welcomed us.

I understand that my participation at the protests in Battery Park have sparked some discontent with those close to me and even those less so. I understand there is fear over open border policies and that unregulated immigration can allow for an emergence of terrorism within our nation. That being said, I also don’t value discriminatory policies, as they only perpetuate radical terrorism and anti-Western propaganda. Perpetuating that frightens me and only worsens the state of our nation. When policies target specific groups of people, based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, we all lose.

To some of my Orthodox friends and Russian family, I understand that my participation in these protests comes off as excessive. You think that I do not understand the policies being proposed and implemented; that I do not care for our national security; that I do not care for Israel; that I have swallowed the liberal agenda and signed allegiance to the professors who support the disastrous, PC, liberal community. I beg to differ.

How quickly have we forgotten our own past, my own family’s past? Or have we chosen to rewrite it, allowing ourselves to be the one exception worthy of defending? We can not demand empathy from others and simultaneously excuse ourselves from standing for others. Yes, there were Jews detained at airports, Jews and Muslims and Christians. Yes, we should be concerned, because of our history, not despite it. I marched because I do care for the security of our nation, one that is better than the discriminatory policies it is implementing. One that is promoting messages and isolationism, a mentality that contends with the very foundations of our nation.