Sunday, October 28, 2018

Reflecting on Pittsburgh Synagogue Slaughter

When I read that the Pittsburgh shooter burned with hatred of HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, for advocating for immigrants at our southern borders, a shock went through my system. HIAS brought my mother to this country.  Here's the HIAS ID card she carried on a ship from Bremen Germany to America in 1947. 
My beautiful mother, who died in 2016, was a Polish Jew who lived through years of terror, first in the Radom ghetto where the Nazis packed and starved Jews from their city; and then in three concentration camps, Plaschow, Bergen Belson, and Auschwitz. She and one sister survived the war (from a family of five). She finally got out of Germany in late 1947. In her HIAS ID, the small print right below mom's name is so moving. "______(name) is under the protection and sponsorship of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. Any courtesy extended to the above named will be appreciated." There's an underlying assumption that the country will treat her not just fairly, but with courtesy. 

And America did. My mother graduated Hunter College, and and had a long career as an outstanding high school teacher and psychologist in Newton, Mass, She adored her students, and made films with them that encouraged tolerance and dialogue between different ethnic groups and cliques in the large public school. And of course, she became a mother. Without HIAS, I literally wouldn't be sitting at a computer in bucolic Southern California, having had a long and peaceful life, feeling utterly secure as an American Jew. And most American Jews would say the same. Until recently.

May those who lost family members to racist and anti-Semitic violence in America find comfort. May this nightmarish outbreak of bigotry end soon. My parents would say: Battles that we thought were long over now must be re-fought. We must treat each other with courtesy. The alternative is too terrible. 


  1. Your mother must have been an amazing person. My heart breaks for this (as your parents would say)"battle" that is great for so many right now. Thank you for sharing this story.

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    2. Ann, thank you for your kind comment. I was so lucky to have her as my mother. She was a loving and supportive soul, like you!

  2. What a beautifully written tribute to your mother, to the HIAS, and to the American dream. I join you in your shock at this anti-Semitic violence.