I was born in Liverpool, England, and spent time both in the Netherlands and in South Africa. By the young age of 15, I had already traveled and lived in three continents and experienced different countries, cultures, people, and forms of government.
I vividly remember living in Johannesburg as a young child, walking in the street, and coming across a person of color. Once they saw me, they would have to walk in the street, not being allowed to walk on the same sidewalk as me. I remember going into the park in Yeoville to get some respite from the hot sun, and the children of color having to jump out of the pool because the law said that it was for whites only. I remember sitting on a bench there, too, that had the same sign: “Whites only”. As a child, it bothered me immensely. I couldn’t understand why anyone would have a problem with someone of a different color.
I give my parents tremendous credit for instilling in our family the idea that what we were seeing was foreign on every level – but especially so as Orthodox Jews who remember one of the most profound lines in the Torah, wherein we are reminded to love the foreigner because we ourselves were foreigners in the land of Egypt.
I came to the United States in 1996. I will never forget going through the arduous application for a green card and then for citizenship. I recall that chilly Friday morning in February of 1999 in downtown Manhattan’s federal court, standing in front of a federal judge in this beautiful, ornate building – raising my right hand and pledging allegiance to the United States. I thought about my family, my parents, and my grandparents especially who would have so wished to come to the States to be saved from the ravages of the Holocaust. I thought about what it meant to be an American, to live in the land of freedom.
Fast forward to 2021. As I sit and watch this inauguration, my heart is filled with pride. Not political pride, not pride in one party’s gain and the other’s loss — but pride in the system that America has created. The land of the free and the home of the brave; the ability of our nation and democracy to withstand turmoil and turbulence and to stay true to its mission. I feel so lucky to be an American and for my family to be living the great opportunities that this country has afforded us.
These are the moments that I will cherish forever.
God bless OUR United States of America.