I AM A REFUGEE. I LOVE AMERICA

One Sunday morning, I was watching news reels of Afghan refugees carrying babies. It hit home to me, as I was a baby brought to America at six months old by my Holocaust survivor parents. I sat down at the computer and began to write what I intended to be a blog post.

After I finished, I read what I wrote. I did not change but a few words. My friends keep telling me to write Op Eds and submit them to our local newspaper. I was never sure what an Op Ed really was, but what I wrote seemed to be timely to what we Americans are seeing before our eyes.

According to Google, “An op-ed, short for “opposite the editorial page” or as a backronym the “opinions and editorials page”, is a written prose piece typically published by a newspaper or magazine which expresses the opinion of an author usually not affiliated with the publication’s editorial board.”

I submitted what I wrote to the Sun Sentinel newspaper, my local Fort Lauderdale newspaper. They kindly chose to publish it Friday, September 3, 2021, under the heading, “ANOTHER VIEWPOINT America has been kind to refugees and can be again.”

So that our family history is preserved for our grandchildren and theirs, which is one of the purposes of this blog, and to share it with the blog readers, who I know share some of my posts with others, here is what I wrote that Sunday morning published in the Sun Sentinel, with links to the posts that contain my parents’ Holocaust histories:

ANOTHER VIEWPOINT America has been kind to refugees and can be again

America has left Afghanistan. However, the pictures of fleeing Afghan families remain in my brain. What will happen to these refugees? What is their future in America?

I am a refugee. I love America.

I should not have even been given the opportunity to become an American. In Europe, during World War II, before they met and before I was born, my Holocaust-survivor parents each suffered atrocities and survived starvation, torture, brutal beatings, slave labor, disease, vermin, witnessing the death of loved ones, and more that I suspect but cannot yet put in words.

My granddaughter asked me to document their traumatic experiences surviving the Holocaust. I was able to write my father’s personal history during World War II first, as I had orally recounted one part of my father’s survival story during a special Bat Mitzvah guided tour of Yad Vashem with our granddaughter to a group of young American men in front of the reconstruction of the Treblinka concentration camp, where he was enslaved and escaped during the Treblinka uprising. [See, post, “Our Holocaust Family History, Part I. My Father, Survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and Treblinka Concentration Camp Uprising”]

It took me a month to write the horror of my mother’s survival during the Holocaust. [See, post, “Our Holocaust Family History, Part II. My Mother, Holocaust Survivor.”]

Six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis but, despite all odds, all while the war raged, my parents survived, met and survived again together. Stateless refugees, they were brought to a displaced persons camp near Stuttgart, Germany, married, and there I was born a stateless person.

Thanks to then General Dwight D. Eisenhower, I did not end up an orphan in what was then known as Palestine, which I believe would have been my fate, because of what would have been my Yiddish speaking parents’ certain death fighting during the Israeli war of independence. Their commanders would direct combat in Hebrew, which they did not understand. My parents believed, as displaced stateless persons, Israel was the only country that would take them in and be a safe haven. Our family history otherwise has been included by Susan Eisenhower, Dwight D. Eisenhower’s granddaughter, on page 65 of her most recent book, “How Ike Led: The Principles Behind Eisenhower’s Biggest Decisions.”

At age six months, instead of possibly ending up an orphan in Israel, I was brought to America by my parents.

My parents revered President Eisenhower and America. My parents wept when they saw the Statue of Liberty. When he came off the boat in New York harbor, my father bent down and kissed the ground of America. They brought me and little else to create a new life in this land of opportunity. They worked long and hard to give my brother and me an education and a future rich with possibilities.

My parents studied with me, and when we got to fifth grade study of American History and the Constitution, my father said the balance of power, the separate but equal branches of government, and especially the independence of the judiciary, is why America is great. Being a judge is the highest calling in America, protecting the rights of everyone, and it’s why everyone is safe in America.

I said I would want to be a judge. He replied that in America, you can have the opportunity to serve as a judge, giving back to America, the country that took us in.

At age 19, I became a naturalized American citizen.

At age 50, I became a judge. I served my state and my country as a judge for almost 20 years.

On the NBC Nightly News, Monday, Aug. 23, I saw a segment on PIVOT, an organization of Vietnamese American refugees helping Afghan refugees. I look at the pictures of Afghans carrying babies, many of whom look the same age I was when I came to America. It brings tears to my eyes and bittersweet memories of my parents’ joy and gratitude of being allowed to become Americans.

I am a refugee. Thank God for the help this country has given to refugees. Thank God for America.

Renee Goldenberg served as a Broward County Circuit Judge and retired in 2017.

So that my grandchildren know too, I maintain a website separate from this blog that includes my professional bio,

 

Joy,

 

Mema

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