Sixty years ago, my grandparents and my father arrived at Ellis Island on Thanksgiving. It was closed for the holiday, so they had to stay in their miserable ship for another night, but they did not care. They made it to America, where they could start over.
On November 27, 1950, my grandfather went to the Jewish vocational and social services agency and asked for a job referral. In Warsaw, he had been a butcher. His first job was plucking the feathers off of chickens at a processing plant for $1 an hour. He stood in cold water as he did this. Eventually, he and my bubbe obtained better jobs at the Hotpoint factory in
Calumet Cicero, just outside of Chicago. They lied about being married so that they could both work there. My bubbe screwed butter dishes into the refrigerator doors, and grandfather lifted refrigerator doors off the assembly line and put them on refrigerators. It was still hard work, but they didn't stand in water while they did it and they made more than $1 an hour. They both more or less labored in factories for the rest of their working lives.
I'm grateful to them for courageously leaving behind everything they had known (although in my grandfather's case, I suppose there wasn't much left anyway) and coming to a new land. If they had not toiled to give my dad a better life than they had ever known, I would not have had the amazing opportunities that I had. This is what America is supposed to be, a place where people can come, work hard, and give their children a future that is more secure.