What I saw, and what I thought

Yesterday morning I attended the funeral of the father of one of my elementary school classmates. In the afternoon I visited the apartment of a friend who has fairly recently moved to Riverside Drive. 

My friend moved to an amazing building. This is what you see before you get into the lobby.

One of my daughter's friends from preschool lived here. I haven't been in the building since 1993.

My friend lives in an apartment that in real estate parlance has inside views, as opposed to river views.  I think I have become enough of a New Yorker that I completely fell in love with the views. I will share the pictures that I took.
But rather than writing about the views, I am going to write about something that has been weighing heavily on me over the past several days.
My grandfather, my mother's father arrived to New York using the visa of a relative who had died. My grandfather was an illegal immigrant. He wasn't able to become a citizen.

My dear friend Fanny was able to come to New York from Berlin just before the war because the Hassenfelds of Hasbro toys fame signed an affidavit and pledged to financially support Fanny if she became indigent. She was the only one of her family to have survived the Nazis

My niece and nephew wouldn't be alive if their great, great uncle Emory from Georgia hadn't broken down in tears  in front of his banker in Georgia. Uncle Emory was worried sick about how to save his sister Margaret her husband, Adolph and children Michael and Mendle from Germany in 1939. Fortunately Uncle Emory's Georgia banker was the brother of the Chairman of the Senate ways and means committee. The banker's brother signed the papers allowing this family to come to the states.

My husband's grandmother was not able to help bring over her family from Poland before the war. We have an increasingly desperate series of letters written in Yiddish.  Before the war, the United States severely limited immigration  of Jews  from Germany and Eastern Europe.

I once found a clipping about a resident of my building, in the late 1930's a German refugee was awaiting his wife's arrival from Germany. The day he received a letter informing him that her visa had been denied he killed himself.

Nearly every Jewish family  I know has similar stories of relatives denied entry to the United States in the years and months before WWII and of relatives who made it here through a series of skin of your teeth accidents.  Many families own desperate letters in Yiddish asking for help to come to the Unites states.
 I think about people desperate to leave Aleppo, about Yazidi, about Kurds.
I hope that good decisions will be made.


  1. Trump denigrated Senator Schumer for crying as he talked about the immigrant ban. He was faking it; he had a great acting coach. Don't hold your breath. I cried when I heard about it too. I am one of the lucky Jews whose family, mostly Russian, came over before the 1920 immigration ban on Jews from Eastern Europe. My husbands family came from Poland and Russia. They got out well before the war as well. But, I certainly know Jews whose families were not so lucky; whose stories are heart wrenching. Your post is moving and beautifully written. Thank you.

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  3. Those of us who are jewish get this in our guts. If you have the time, you may want to watch this video made by Yaakov Cohn, son of Rabbi Moses J and Devorah Cohn. Rabbi Cohn was the principal of my school. His wife was my third grade teacher. Before WWII Rabbi Cohn was given the task of smuggling out all of the members of the Mir Yeshiva.



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