These two men were talking to each other one day in Budapest in 1937. They were captured by the photographer Ferenc Berko, the son of a Hungarian Jewish refugee who prior to 1937 had already made the decision that Hungary was a hostile place for Jews. By the end of the Second World War nearly 600,000 Hungarian Jews would be killed in concentration camps and ditches, victims of Hitler's Final Solution.
I hope they made it out. It's likely they did not, leaving their lives as a sacrifice to the idea that to be a 'stranger in a strange land' is fraught with danger. And this is why our texts demand that we tell our story over and over again: "The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you." The ethical dimension to the emigre's reality is clear.
Despite its imperfections, America has been a place of refuge and blessing for the Jewish people. It has been, without question, the safest Diaspora home for our people. All the more reason, they say, that we ought to be sensitive to the strivings and yearnings for those contemporary emigres to feel a sense of welcome and opportunity in the face of a cruel world that challenges one's livelihood, safety and even existence.
On this first day of Hanukah, fortuitously coinciding with Thanksgiving, let's remember that we too were strangers in a strange land and that for many, our ability to immigrate and seek shelter and life has preserved us down to this day.
And HERE you can even do something about it. The Religious Action Center in Washington, DC, provides an easy and helpful way for you to let legislators know that they should take up serious immigration reform to ease the path to citizenship that so many seek.
To be trapped in the no-man's land of statelessness is a terrible anxiety at best and at worst a threat to one's very existence.
Write a letter. Put the pressure on. Save a life. Dedicate this first day to those strangers in our land and let the light of the first day be a beacon of hope and welcome on the path to citizenship.