Saturday, July 14, 2018
Friday, July 13, 2018
Monday, July 9, 2018
Thursday, July 5, 2018
“Grandmother taught me to be warm and welcoming” - column for the Las Cruces Bulletin July 6, 2018 issue
I have only a few memories of my grandmother, Anna, whom I called “Bubby.”
Anna came to the United States from Poland in 1904. She entered through Ellis Island and went straight to Kansas City, Missouri, where she joined other immediate family members who had already settled there.
She met my grandfather-to-be, Mendel, within a couple of years after her arrival. They married in 1907. They had four sons, my father being the youngest.
Anna ran a “dry goods” store from 1908 until 1939. One of my relatives often spoke about my grandmother’s engaging personality in greeting the public and in maintaining relationships with family and friends.
Anna was a well-documented resident, with her entry into the country chronicled at Ellis Island and her residency noted in the national census and in city directories. It seems that, for her, and for many other immigrants, there was not much of a push to formally naturalize as an American citizen, although my grandfather had done so in the mid 1920s.
Yet, a major change in American life came when the United States Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1924. This piece of legislation set quotas restricting the annual entry of potential immigrants, especially from countries in Europe, to 2% of what the population was in 1890 of American residents from those particular countries. One consular authority of the time characterized Jews and other groups as “undesirable” in a report that supported the legislation, although the bill was had to be based on countries of origin rather than ethnic or religious identity.
Had my grandparents arrived on American shores later than 1924, it is likely they would have been sent back home.
Still, my grandmother continued her life as a seemingly content resident, that is, until 1940.
That year, the United States Congress passed the Alien Registration Act, which required all “aliens” to register between August and December of that year. One purpose of that piece of legislation was to prohibit certain “subversive activities.” The Act required residents who were not yet citizens to report at a local post office for an interview and to be fingerprinted.
My grandmother’s registration form, which I found among family papers, was likely filled out by my father, who may have accompanied my bubby to the post office for her interview.
A very quiet life in a midwestern city was almost upended. It is likely that her change in status, from contributing community member (who belonged only to a “Jewish Mothers Club”) to being seen as a potential pariah, motivated my grandmother to apply for naturalization. She became a citizen in late 1941.
After studying the documents related to the Karols’ journey to citizenship, I came to appreciate, even more, all those people who seek to become contributing members of our communities, whether they are seeking new opportunity or are fleeing violence or persecution.
My grandmother’s story relates directly to Father Gabriel Rochelle’s statement, in his June 22 column, that faith values point to “inclusion of the tired and the poor, those who are exiled or seeking refuge in one way or another, those looking to make a better life for their children.”
So, I say to my grandmother: Thanks, Bubby, for your journey, and for your influence on my parents and my early life. You taught me to be warm and welcoming, like you. You are one of the people who helped to make me a proud American.
Monday, July 2, 2018
Support for Las Cruces City Council Resolution opposing Zero Tolerance Policy at the Border - July 2, 2018 (Email)
On Resolution No. 19-003
I appreciate the City Council’s desire to take a stand against the Zero Tolerance Policy that has been adopted by this administration.
This past Saturday morning, I was considering the words I was uttering in prayer, which spoke of lifting up the fallen, giving strength to the weary, and opening the eyes of those who can’t see. The United States has, at times, done all of that and more.
At other times, fear-based policies that do not help our country have won the day. The flow of immigration that was reduced by law to a trickle in 1924 was mostly motivated by a desire to adjust the racial and ethnic composition of the United States population back to what it had been in 1890.
The Alien Registration Act of 1940 turned long-time residents into only temporary pariahs if they were lucky. At that time, my grandmother had to go report to a post office after being a well-documented resident of Kansas City for 36 years.
Some people today so easily use words like alien, invader, stranger, foreigner, and illegal not while speaking in the realm of law, but for the purpose of ostracizing people, perhaps even to dehumanize them, all because of a fear of change.
At this moment, fear will get us nowhere. A measured and thoughtful application of existing laws will better serve our nation’s well-being and security and offer people seeking freedom from oppression and violence a chance to seek asylum and refuge.
I support your proposed resolution today, with the hope that your statement will help to reunite parents separated from children, keep families together, and create more of a sense of unity as our nation turns 242 years old this week.
Thursday, June 21, 2018
Guide of the Seeker - A Prayer for kindness and hospitality - Invocation for Temple Beth-El Las Cruces Board meeting on June 21, 2018
Guide of the seeker,
Protector of those fleeing the danger in their homes,
Beacon to wanderers, both parents and children, winding their way to freedom,
Provider for our needs who works through us to offer hospitality to the destitute, the traveler, the refugee, the lover of liberty looking for security and safety,
Open our eyes to a world where there is enough kindness to give
To overcome the violence that others perpetrate in places far and near.
Inspire in us the resolve to view others with compassion rather than suspicion,
With understanding rather than rejection,
And with a desire to work together rather than focusing on ways to drive us apart.
Remind us of those who came before us,
Who prayed to You along their journey
As they faced an uncertain future in a land they were told was golden,
A nation that likely looked a little like paradise compared to the villages from whence they came.
Help us to make this country a little more like the paradise our ancestors sought out
Through promoting greater respect, support and openness
In the place of fomenting fear and hatred towards people whom we really do not yet know.
Reveal to us the best that is in us so that we will approach our fellow human beings
With trust, with a heartfelt welcome, and with sincere smiles.
May the borders of our souls be open enough
To enable us to extend a hand
To the destitute
To the refugee
To the lovers of liberty
Who believe that love is something we can share
That will cause the divides between us to disappear
So that we will finally truly reflect the Oneness
Of the One
Who made us to be
Sunday, June 17, 2018
It's the law? When our standards may not be SO absolute.... - another reflection on current approaches to immigration laws
I didn’t point it out to him, but I should have, that 55 is not an absolute. During the years 1973-1987, when oil prices skyrocketed due to the whims of OPEC, the speed limit was 55, but the rule of thumb for drivers, especially on long trips, was that you could drive up to 62 mph and likely not be charged with speeding.
That changes these days based on local authorities, especially when driving on a 2-lane road that runs through a small town where there is a quick change from 55 mph to, say, 30 mph. If you are traveling at 40 mph after passing the “reduce speed to 30 mph” sign, you are, technically, breaking the law. Otherwise, there may be 5 mph leeway above a set speed limit.
How many of us drive exactly 55 mph in a 55 mph zone? Or 65? Or 70?
I am sure that some of the very people talking about the need for “zero tolerance” in regards to immigration do not stick to the EXACT speed limit, and might exceed it accordingly. These may be two different arenas of law, but I don’t see the comparison as invidious at all. It is about consistency, moral and legal.
Consequently, I have little tolerance for zero-tolerance, unless it is zero-tolerance towards hatred and fear driving national policies. Sometimes the rules are their as targets, not as absolutes, to be enforced reasonably.