First Generation Freedom

5 years ago sfranco 0

I take a lot of pride in being a first generation American. My mother’s side worked very hard and sacrificed everything to come to the United States from Russian to live their “American dream.” They constantly lived in fear and never felt safe. Basic concepts that we have as Americans such as freedom of speech and religion and even toilets were luxuries that they could only dream of having in Russia.

Practicing Judaism was a luxury for my mother. My mother grew up hearing anti semitic slurs; she was called a “dirty Jew” and was often singled out in her class. Being Jewish in the Soviet Union meant growing up with a lot of discrimination, but what was worse was being labeled a refugee. My grandparents applied to move to the United States when my mom was only seven years old, but were only granted to leave when my mom was seventeen. During the times where they waited to come to the United States, they were labeled as refugees. Russians were taught that any person wanting to leave Russia were betrayers to their country, and thus took away my grandparents’ jobs and whatever livelihood and freedoms they had in Russia.  My mother had no childhood as a result of this because of the harsh discrimination faced. This meant that she was bullied and called a ¨traitor.” No one in Russia wanted to be associated with refugees in fear of being suspected of anything by the KGB. My mom grew up with no friends and had nothing. In addition to the discrimination faced as a Russian refugee, she also faced the fact that she was Jewish. Even though my mother’s family didn’t openly live a Jewish life or practice any Jewish traditions, the fact that they were Jewish was enough for them to feel compromised and in danger.

As a first generation American, I feel lucky to be able to say that I have the freedom of speech and I can practice whatever religion I want. I feel blessed  can wear my Jewish pride loud and proud. It was always important for my mom to give me the Jewish life that she never had. With passover quickly approaching, we remember how G-d took us out of Egypt. He saved us from the enslavement that Pharaoh cast upon us. We remember the blood, sweat, and tears that the Jews experienced, and the hardships they faced only because they were Jewish. Our lives seem like paradise in comparison to what the Jews endured in Egypt. Here, we have privacy, religious freedom, no lines for toilet paper, freedom of speech; the list could go on and on. My mother’s family experienced an exodus from harsh conditions to the United States, where they could freely be who they were.

Each person goes through their own individual exodus, whether that’s major, like my mom leaving Russia, or minor, like a struggle within yourself. Remembering the stories and hardships my family faced makes me appreciate the life I have and the life I’m able to live. As American Jews, we often forget and take for granted the incredible opportunity we were given living here. I feel extraordinarily lucky to have a life of freedom and the opportunity to live a life I choose and have the freedom to pursue an American dream.