After six months of anticipation, Day One of my tenure at SSTTE arrived this morning.  It's a Sunday during the summer, so the temple calendar was quiet today...a small gift to me and my family as we continue our transition to New York.

Amy and I decided to "play tourist" with the kids, and so we wound up at South Street Seaport in the City, and soon thereafter on a boat tour around New York Harbor.  Although a sail past the Statue of Liberty hadn't been a focal point of our thinking behind the adventure, I found myself incredibly moved during a day which was just supposed to be fun.
Although it admittedly sounds corny, it struck me as remarkable that my family and I were experiencing the very same welcome to New York City that all eight of my great-grandparents had one hundred years earlier.  And as I realized that, I began thinking about what brings each of us to New York in the first place.

Some of us move here as adults, because of professional opportunities, or because of the allure of living in THE CITY.

But many of us are here (or in my case: return here) because our families are rooted here.  And, for so many of us: we are rooted here...because this is the place where our great-grandparents (or other relatives) first arrived in this country.  This place....this city...is our home - because a hundred years ago, our relatives didn't have any other place to call home.  Except for this country.  And except for this remarkable city, which by its very nature (as expressed via the statute who is the goodwill ambassador of New York) seems to radiate a sense of welcoming to all who seek a new life here.
The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
- Emma Lazarus, 1883
Though living in New York is a privilege that perhaps some of us take for granted - as Jews I would humbly suggest that our connection to this city is something sacred...something that we must acknowledge from time to time...in order to express humility, and remembrance of the fact that our forbears came to these shores with nothing but the clothes on their backs. And we should offer up gratitude that this City welcomed them anyway.
 
Okay...so I won't be residing in New York City proper.  But today, I am immensely proud to be able to call myself a New Yorker.

 


Comments

Elinor Eckerle
07/19/2012 10:01pm

I recently started to look into my heritage. It is quite a seductive puzzle. I cannot stop. They all came, fleeing the Tzar, from about 1904-1912. When very young, i asked lots of questions. Nobody, not one of them, spoke of the old country or the dangerous and difficult trip here. I have been told by psychiatrists that this is a kind of "soldier's pact" - a silent pact. Life began here anew. Period. They all understood their commen horrors,, but really, could any of we? I enjoyed the unconditional love they offered. Who could know how tough they really were - not I, eating my fresh oatmeal, onion rolls with globs of bar butter, sweet cakes, just squeezed orange juice,and the prohibited coffee ? It was a feast; they always liked to watch me and urge a food review. Now i knowL it was a feast for them, too. I found the street, NYC, 10th Ave -- Ida and everyone's 1st stop and home, straight from Ellis Island. The tenements are there, wrapped in a partial fascia, and so narrowly close, they could be connected with an elevator - condos! I had to catch my breath as i visualized her there. My grandma Ida washed the halls and toilets every day after the job in the furrier sweatshop, for her and her younger sister's room and board. (she 18, the sister 15). I stood in awe of Ida, who came alone in charge of Sadie, but also in awe of a tough city that met this tough woman, but gave her a chance to win at life, step by hard step, never having to give up her Judaic life. Freedom to hope is a strong motivator - this country, this city - you are so right, people should remember, should be thankful, there are no placds on earth like them.

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