My parents were both first-generation American Jews — their parents moved to New York from Romania and Russia. Before I was born, they moved to South Florida, another “promised land” of sorts, in the hope of giving their children a better life. They were the first to move into a new neighborhood in Hialeah. The modest houses quickly sold, and my parents quickly realized we were the only Jewish family. The neighbors were suspicious, hostile, and occasionally frightening. But my parents stayed. One day, when I was about 6, I was playing in the back yard while my mother hung laundry on the clothesline. A woman who lived next door came outside. When she saw us, she yelled, “Go back to Russia!” Of course I had no idea what it meant. My mother, who had fled her mother’s refusal to speak anything but Yiddish and what she called “old-world ways,” looked like she’d been slapped. She had never even been outside the U.S. This was her home.
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