Reflections on Becoming a US Citizen
Nir Buchler is a Wexner Graduate Fellow/Davidson Scholar (Class 22) and graduate student at Brandeis University. He is a candidate for a dual degree in Jewish Professional Leadership and Public Policy. Nir is currently doing field placement at the Combined Jewish Philanthropies working on the Boston-Haifa Connection. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last month, at the African-American History Museum of Boston we were twenty-nine individuals, all coming from different countries, each of us having a different story and all proud to become American citizens. It was a meaningful ceremony.
Here is my story: I was born and raised in France, I am the grandson of Holocaust survivors, my parents are Israeli and French citizens and my mother had to flee Tunisia as a child because she was Jewish. America today stands as my new home and I embrace its values. I have been waiting for this moment even before coming to this country in 2004.
I must admit that living in France at the turn of the century, as a Zionist Jew, and as someone who admires the United States was not easy. Every week we would hear of a synagogue burning or a Jew being attacked. This sadly reminded me of what my grandparents experienced in Hungary. I was also told not to wear a kippah on my way to services on Yom Kippur.
However, what upset me the most was the silence of the French non-Jewish majority. As Elie Wiesel once said “to remain silent is the greatest sin of all.” I remember marching the streets of Paris and protesting with as many as 150,000 Jews, but feeling the silence and the indifference of too many people.
Last month, I was standing in the African-American History Museum. The museum is a landmark that represents the suffering of the Black community in Boston but also its courage and achievements. Surrounding me was a temporary exhibition of the inauguration of our President. Whether you agree or not with the policies of President Obama, America has come a long way. Today new American citizens take a very important oath in an institution charged with meaning.