As a German Jew Raising a Family in America, I Did Not Sign Up for This
The Spanish-born, U.S.-educated philosopher Jorge Santayana wrote in 1905: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Growing up Jewish in Germany, this was a leitmotif. My maternal grandparents were Holocaust survivors, and the legacy of the Third Reich — the idea that democracy is fragile and ethnocentric nationalists were to be feared — was preeminent. This became especially apparent in the aftermath of the German unification, when the country saw a rise of violent xenophobic neo-Nazism, targeting people with immigrant backgrounds, Jews and, yes, democracy.
Around that time, my parents took us on a vacation to Washington D.C. and New York. I remember how amazed I was to see how close one could get to the White House, an indication of how strong democracy was in this country. In New York, I was fascinated by the diversity and peaceful coexistence one could experience in everyday life. Most of all, I was amazed how a diverse, self-confident and creative Jewish community was part of this metropolis.