Yesterday, September 22, 2008, was the 20th Anniversary of our family's landing on Ellis Island, I mean JFK.
A lot happened in twenty years, both wonderful and heartbreaking. But one thing remained: our quest for personal freedom and profound appreciation of it. People have different understating of what constitutes as live's necessities for them. In this vein, a very old lesson from the book of Deuteronomy comes to mind. This lesson took place about nineteen years ago, and the teacher who taught it that day had since when passed away; but the message remained. How do we determine what is necessity and what is luxury? Things that we do not appreciate while we have them, but can not live without are necessities; things that we can live without, but get very excited once we have them are luxuries; as simple as that. For our family, life in Communist Russia was miserable and suffocating (and the miserable economic conditions were the least of it). Living in America and being free is just that: living; not just existing and fighting for survival. Freedom is just there: unnoticed as much as the air we breathe, till it is taken away, and we start to suffocate.
That is the reason for my deep love for this country: my ability to breathe and be free. This country offered me shelter; most probably, it basically saved my life: outspoken non-conformists of Jewish descent who are proud of that connection do not really thrive in Russia under any regime. That is why I add a request for the safety of USA to my morning prayers; and that is why I extend whatever puny efforts I could to protect this safety.
So, here it to us, seven Jews who landed on these shores twenty years ago, the day after Yom Kippur, to begin a new life. Grandma, may she rest in piece, a crusty lady who always hated Communists and loved this country, tried to learn English and enjoyed life; Dad, who always tried to shelter us from the vicious attacks of anti-Semites and was always proud of his outspoken anti-Communist first-born (your humble servant); Mom, who lost her health after giving birth to four children under the extremely humane conditions of Russian Communist medicine and protecting them from anti-Semites both young and old; my three wonderfully unique siblings; and also, to my sister's two munchkins, may G-d bless their fluffy Jewish heads, the first and second members of our family to be born on American soil. Happy Anniversary!