Pinhas Brown

Pinhas Brown

Arlington Heights, IL

On being a first generation Child of Holocaust Survivors My family and I came to the United States in 1968 from Prague, Czechoslovakia. My parents were Jewish, and they were both orphans, having lost their immediate and extended families in concentration camps. Without a strong Jewish community in Prague, they felt isolated. My father wished to emigrate to Israel or to the United States or Canada. He gained a job with the AMA, American Medical Association, in Chicago as a scientist. I am so glad that we immigrated to the United States. We settled in Skokie, which had a sizeable Jewish population. Skokie was also the home for other holocaust survivors and their children. Skokie has a holocaust museum. And Skokie is famous for her infamous Nazi march of the mid-1970s. Note: I love that America allows freedom of speech. I do not agree with giving Nazis the right to free speech, but I love that any message of non-violence and non-hate is given the right to free speech. I love America for allowing me to go to Northwestern University. Private American universities were not closed to Jewish people. I could attend any college in the country, without their denying my access simply because I was a Jew. I could have even attended Notre Dame if I had wished. (-: I love the fact that my father gained a teaching position at Northwestern. My Dad had thirty years of job security, a steady income, respect, a retirement plan, health insurance, a tuition discount for my Northwestern education, and good colleagues that he befriended. I am glad that a Jewish scientist was allowed to work at Northwestern. In Nazi Germany, my Dad would not have been allowed to teach or work possibly. I love that we owned a home in Skokie. As “It’s a Wonderful Life” once said: “It runs deep in the race to wish to own the roof over your head.” We only had a small, split level home; but we were never homeless, we never went hungry, we had heat in the winter and air-conditioning in the summer. I had a happy childhood, and I knew the security of living in a nice home. I loved America’s public schools. I received an adequate education in our public schools. True, there were too many multiple choice exams, and not enough essay exams, but our schools were okay. I learned to love art, love music and singing, I played trumpet in band, I loved going to gym every day (and loved dodge-ball and floor hockey); I loved how my 4th grade teacher came to our house for Hungarian Goulash one night; I loved spelling bees; and I loved all the great books I could get at our school’s library. I loved all the books of Roald Dahl; I loved Peanut’s comic books; I loved the books of Beverley Cleary; I loved all Encyclopedia Brown stories; and I loved learning about animals, birds, sports heroes, and the planets. The only complaint I had about public school was our two year focus on Greek and Roman mythology. Why was I led to the study of multiple Gods for two years? I thought we were a country under one God. Oh well—maybe it is just me. I also loved America for allowing me to go to Hebrew School, and allowing me to have a Bar Mitzvah. In the past, in many European countries, I would not have been allowed to study Judaism or Hebrew. I would not have been allowed to go to Temple. I would not have been allowed to practice my religion freely. My Bar Mitzvah was the proudest, happiest day of my life. I loved my Rabbi and Teacher. I am glad that America allows and tolerates Rabbis. I am so thankful for our freedom of religion. Note: I do wish that America did not just have freedom of religion; I also wish that public schools would teach basic ethics and provide basic introductions to all faiths and religions to increase respect and understanding of other religions I would have enjoyed studying basic ethics in school far more than Greek mythology. Lastly, I am thankful that America did not force me to become a Jewish money lender. I enjoy being a software tester and a technical writer. I am thankful that America allows me to own land. I enjoy owning my own home. I am thankful that America does not force me to live in a Jewish Ghetto. I live in a predominantly Christian suburb, but my neighbors do not attack me or hate me for being Jewish. (One neighbor does dislike me, though). I am thankful that America allows for the inter-marriage of Jews with non-Jews. My wife is Jewish, but I have dated Christians. Many of the couples we are friends with are inter-married couples. My temple has a high, high percentage of inter-married couples. I am thankful that our country has equality among the sexes, equal rights to all, equal protection under the law to all; and access to public libraries to all; and access to public parks and woods to all. I am so glad that my family immigrated to the United States. Sure, we faced a lot of xenophobia during the 70’s. My being Czech was a constant source of amusement for the guys I grew up with. (When Peter’s parents got married, it was a Czech mate! (-: ) My friends refused to eat over at our house, because they refused to eat “Czech food.” I was rarely invited to their parties, possibly owing to my being different. Now, however, I have good friends; and my being an immigrant does not cause people to ignore me. Thank you America for being a country that allows immigrants to succeed. My family and I have been blessed with security, training, education, jobs, savings, and good medical care. I am forever indebted to America. Pinhas Brown

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