first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2They showed up just in time, while she and a group of women were on a march from a work camp to a death camp to be exterminated.Brondela and her husband were both liberated and taken care of by Americans, who arranged for the women to be placed in homes. They then helped reunite her with her husband, my late father-in-law, Itzik. Neither had known the other was alive. In their own words, “We did not know if anybody was still alive.” My father-in-law had cousins who were already in America. They lived in our heartland, in Iowa. Although the cousins did not know my father-in-law personally, they opened their hearts and their home and brought Itzik, Brondela and my newborn wife, Chaiya, to America. The family arrived penniless, having lost everything and nearly everyone. From nothing, they created a new life, and in our precious liberty they pursued happiness. What they achieved here had not been possible in 1,000 years in Europe. Here they gained English skills, found jobs and went from nothing to owning a business and an apartment house, giving college educations to their two children and contributing to the lives, development and education of two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren (so far). HIS wonderful country and my beautiful wife share the same birthday.Before I get into trouble, let me say that while the date is the same, the birth years are very different. On the Fourth of July, our family will gratefully celebrate both birthdays. Our combined festivities are closely related, and not simply a coincidence of date.My wife’s birth and life say something about America something good that we all know but too often don’t take the time to notice and take pride in.My wife would not be alive without America our strength, our goodness, our generosity and our welcome. She was born in a displaced persons’ camp in Germany to Holocaust survivors from Poland. Her mother, Brondela, had the great fortune to be liberated by American soldiers. Theirs is not an unusual immigrant story. Not unusual for other Jews, for the Irish, for Asians and increasingly for Hispanics. This has been the fertile ground where the world’s tired and poor have taken root, grown, blossomed and born sweet fruit.When we look at our difficulties in assimilating our immigrants, we should understand our failures in the context of the larger world. I understand that people are upset at illegal immigrants jumping to the front of lines where others have been waiting for a dozen years. I do understand that we cannot have open borders.Immigration is a problem, but what a problem!Our challenge is in direct proportion to our blessing. We build walls to keep people out. Most of the rest of the walls the world builds are to keep people in.Was there ever a greater symbol of national failure than the Berlin Wall? How many nations control exit visas, or hold the families of travelers hostage? Many countries make those who wish to leave trade their wealth for freedom. We do none of these things.Why are people risking their lives many losing their lives sneaking over deserts, under barbed wire, across rivers and stuffing themselves into cargo containers to come here? Could it be that the sane world does not hate our freedom but loves it? Could it be that our problems, while real, are also something about which to brag? Sure, we have to do something about immigration, but please appreciate the blessings that cause the problems. We sometimes seem like movie stars who complain about the great cost of beauty and celebrity.Would we rather be unappealing to the world?We have, despite our imperfections, created something remarkable. To a degree unequaled by any other large nation, we have escaped the sectarian enmity and violence that was the curse of Europe, the tribalism of the Balkans and Africa and the caste system of India.For all our history of slavery, racism and various bouts of xenophobia, we have created a nation out of many more parts than our founders ever dreamed. However enlightened the founders were, they did not envision a nation of hundreds of different Protestant churches, differing churches calling themselves Catholic, four or five branches of Judaism, Islam, Native-American spirituality, Hinduism and Buddhism. That there are times of friction is not surprising; that we live mostly in peace has been a miracle and is now a tradition.I glance out my window and look around our cul-de-sac. On one side is a young Jewish man from Iran. Across from him is the home of a beloved rabbi. Next to him, an extended Christian family from Eastern Europe.On my other side is a wonderful Muslim family from Iran. Their three boys are medical doctors. Next door to them lives an Armenian Christian family from Lebanon. This is how our cul-de-sac works, how our world should work, and it is how our nation can, and remarkably often does, work. We still have our imperfections and ways of keeping ourselves apart from each other. Yet, unique in history, our separations are based mostly on socio-economic, educational and class distinctions. These are real, divisive and painful, but unlike race, tribe and ethnicity, they are amenable to change.Happily, we are a society that welcomes such change.Money trumps race, and education overcomes origins. These are only steps on a journey. They are, however, significant steps.As we look at a world that seems to be coming apart at the seams, we remain a nation.When we see refugees fleeing violence, poverty and oppression, we should literally count our blessings. We are still a beacon to the world.We are not perfect. This is not Paradise Found, but we are Hope Incarnate and offer to all the opportunity to dream of and work for an ever “more perfect union.”Jonathan Dobrer is a professor of comparative religion at the University of Judaism in Bel-Air. Write to him by e-mail at [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more