I grew up in what I consider the average American family. My mother is from Long Island, New York, and my dad grew up in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. All of their parents are also natural-born American citizens, and the majority of their parents were, too, except for one.

By Rebecca Serviss

My ties to the immigrant world were already loose because no one in my immediate family was one. I remember all of the projects I was required to do in school where I would have to write a biographical sketch of a family member who immigrated to the United States. I always struggled to get that first-person perspective.

For me, that person was my great-grandfather Irving Kulberg, who was the last person in my family to immigrate to the United States from Poland in the early 1900s. Unfortunately, I never got to meet him because he passed away in 1976 when my mother was only 8 years old.

I thank Grandpa Irving for two big things that make me who I am today. The first is the fact that he and his family came to the U.S. at what I consider a good time. In all honesty, it was never a good time to be an Ashkenazi Jewish immigrant in the 20th century, but they left before Adolf Hitler came.

Many people believe that anti-Semitism was made popular through Hitler’s beliefs of racial superiority, but it actually existed long before he came to power. We weren’t welcomed anywhere, just take a look at stories behind many of the holidays we celebrate, thanking God that we’re still alive today.

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