Freedom is a foreign concept to those living under an oppressive government, with leaders often oppressing the freedom to practice religion. During the 1930s my great grandparents left Turkey because of the 1934 Thrace Pogroms, which were violent attacks against the Jews within Turkey (Green). They experienced hate firsthand through violence and vandalism. My grandparents decided to take the dream of finding peace with them throughout their journey to Cuba where they thought they would be safe as Jews. My grandparents lived in Cuba peacefully until the Cuban Revolution and the rise of Fidel Castro. When Castro came into power, he established a dictatorship stripping people of their basic rights. One of the rights they feared most of being stripped away was the freedom of religion. Being faced with the uncertainty of whether or not they would be safe scared them most. This caused them to leave and move to America. My grandparents chose to emigrate to America because the First Amendment allows the freedom to practice and exercise religion and that right could never be stripped away. They didn’t want their children to fear whether or not they would be discriminated against due to their Jewish faith. My American creed surrounds the importance of religious freedom, the one thing America offers that allows so many people to feel a sense of security.
In my grandparent’s eyes, America was the face of freedom, something they wanted to provide for their children. Condoleezza Rice, the former Secretary of State, said in an interview for American Creed, “it doesn’t matter where you come from, it’s where you’re going” (American Creed). This idea caused my grandparents to want to change things for my father because they realized that the future ahead wasn’t looking promising in Cuba, giving them a motive to move to America. Once they moved to Brooklyn, New York, my father was able to grow up in a neighborhood with religious diversity and inclusion. This caused my father's upbringing to be filled with acceptance instead of with fear or hate. As he grew up he was able to practice his Jewish faith with a sense of security and pride.
Due to my father’s upbringing, I’ve grown up with the idea that being Jewish is something to be proud of instead of something to be nervous about. Each day I wake up, I have the freedom to wear a Star of David symbolizing my Jewish identity, along with my mom, dad, and brother who all wear one across their neck. Living in a community that accepts all religions can shape a person in a positive way. In my town, it is common to be friends with people of different religious groups and everyone is treated equally. I have friends from various religions, from Mormonism to Judaism, and we act as though there isn’t a religious barrier between us. In school, the Anti-Defamation League gave a presentation called “Truth About Hate”, teaching individuals about how hate affects others in hopes to make progress towards unity. Although, this presentation discussed ways to decrease all forms of bullying, it also had a focus on religious prejudice. In addition, throughout town after the Charlottesville attack, yard signs displaying the message “Hate Has No Home Here” were spread around to showcase unity. Since my town is so accepting, I automatically feel a sense of religious security. My ancestors were not as fortunate. My grandparents were never able to feel a sense of security, causing them to be displaced from their homes two times before arriving in America.
I am beyond fortunate that I was able to grow up in America and able to live with religious freedom. If my great- grandparents never left Turkey, I would be living with a sense of fear. Each day on the news stories are heard about religious persecution globally, which enlightens me about how real the American Dream is. This is the dream that my grandparents eventually manifested to create a life for my father in peace, where he was then able to show me what the American Dream does for people, especially immigrants.
My American Creed is based on freedom of religion giving me a feeling of security, which many other countries aren’t able to facilitate. Our founding fathers made sure that America was a diverse religious place where everyone could practice their own religion without being discriminated against. This idea has caused so many individuals to immigrate to America, including my family because of the fear of religious persecution in Turkey and Cuba. Junot Diaz describes America as “a dream where we are on each other’s sides” (American Creed). Freedom of religion is a path towards being on each other’s sides because we are all Americans.
Ball, Sam, director. American Creed. American Creed, 2017, www.americancreed.org/watch.
Green, David B. “1934: A Rare Kind of Pogrom Begins, in Turkey.” Haaretz.com, 10 Apr. 2018, www.haaretz.com/jewish/.premium-1934-a-rare-kind-of-pogrom-begins-in-turkey-1.5250809.