Today we celebrate Arrival Day, the 350th anniversary of the first Jewish immigrants’ arrival in New Amsterdam (today’s New York City) on September 7, 1654. The Head Heeb has been preparing for this event for over a year. He explains:
Arrival Day is a holiday of the American Jewish people rather than the Jewish religion – a celebration of the Jewish community and its contributions to the United States. As such, non-Jews as well as Jews are welcome to join in the celebration. In the wise words of Ikram Saeed, everyone is Jewish today, just as everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.
A month ago I participated in a wonderful wedding that offers the perfect story for Arrival Day. I share with you the details of this wedding as a celebration of Jews from all over the world coming together in the United States.
In early August I returned to Princeton for the wedding of two friends. I had met both the bride and the groom even before they met each other. There is something extra special about friends coming together in that way. The bride had been an undergraduate Sociology major at Princeton (the department in which I got my graduate degree) and once started talking to me in the department’s mailroom after having heard me speaking in Hungarian with someone. Although she grew up in Manhattan, her parents are Hungarian from Transylvania (now Romania) and she, too, speaks the language. The groom and I started our graduate training at Princeton the same year and hung out in the same social circles from close to the beginning of our years there. He is from Australia. The two of them met as a klezmer band was forming at Princeton. They are both music lovers and amazing musicians. Music and their Jewish cultural heritage seemed to bring them together. And now they are a wonderful Jewish couple from different ends of the globe living a life together in the United States. The wedding was marvelous with friends and family of both the groom and the bride putting on amazing musical performances the night before the ceremonies.
There are several reasons why I live in the U.S. and although no one factor is fully responsible, one contributing reason is that no matter how people try to downplay it, anti-Semitism is alive and well in Europe. I prefer to live in a country where I do not have to be on my guard all the time about being Jewish. (I realize experiences must vary across the U.S., but this is my experience having lived in seven states in rural, suburban and urban areas and I appreciate it.) At my friends’ wedding, Jews and non-Jews of numerous backgrounds came together to celebrate in the joy of two wonderful people. In my mind, this story is the perfect tribute to Arrival Day.
The Head Heeb will be linking to posts that celebrate Arrival Day through the day to be sure to hop on over to his blog for pointers.