I love this picture of my immigrant grandpa, Max Paller. Grandpa Max was 4’10” tall. He is the short guy with the next generation, my Dad, Leonard on the right, and Harry Goldstien on the left as they were getting ready to break ground on their new building. Grandpa was 67 in this picture. It looks like he’s ready to dig the foundation himself, doesn’t he? At this point, they had taken away his pick-up truck so he would slow down. It didn’t work. He got a rack mounted on his station wagon so he could put a ladder on top and go right back to checking on the crews as they did custom sheet metal installation.
When my Jewish Grandfather immigrated to the US from Russia by way of Poland, there was no such thing as illegal immigration (if you were white). He worked 16-18 hours Monday through Friday and half day on Saturday. When the millennials talk about generational wealth, I think of the stories from my family about hard work and education that created financial security for our family.
Perhaps you have not shared your family stories with the next generation. Its good to find the old photos and be reminded. We need to embrace our history and share our immigrant stories. They enrich us and those around us. The first generation often doesn’t talk much about where they came from. My Grandpa refused to talk much about the old country. We don’t know if he was one of 13 or 17 siblings. What I did find out was that he was the youngest male, and he was supposed to be a rabbi, which he had no interest in doing. Instead, he went to Warsaw to live with his oldest sister. He left there after high school with his little sister (she was about 4″8″ tall) and moved to Los Angeles where he had a cousin. I heard a lot more of the stories from my Grandmother about life in Los Angeles with the street cars and all the fruit trees. Even with how hard life was in the depression and the 2nd World War, they were grateful to be here.
People left the old country because they had so little opportunity where they were born. For people of color, this is so much more of an issue, and their stories of when they arrived here are so much uglier. We are in a mess now and and we must address it.
Let’s not blame the immigrants for wanting to come to the US. Let’s fix our immigration system, so it works. This week, contact your Representative and ask them to work together to come up with something that fixes the mess at the border. Let’s move forward with immigration reform. We owe it to ourselves, the people who would like to come here legally and can’t, and to our immigrant ancestors who gave up so much so that we could live free.