An Immigration Memoir

The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) runs a fascinating website that posts memoirs of Russian Jewish immigrants who arrived over the last 40 years. A friend of the family who runs the site asked me to write up my own story for them. Since HIAS helped out my parents when we first arrived in the US back in 1979, I was more than happy to do so.

Unfortunately, the technology of the HIAS site isn’t yet quite able to handle some of the formatting in my document. So for the moment I have posted it here. It tells the story of my experience as an immigrant from roughly the age of 5 to 18 (1978-91). We plan to transfer it to the HIAS site later.

Memoir writing isn’t one of my strong suits. But some aspects of the story might be of interest to VC readers. For example, I describe how I first became a libertarian (pp. 22-24), and how the immigration experience influenced my later research agenda as a scholar (40-42).

There are also cameo appearances by world-famous political philosopher John Rawls, whom I encountered when I was fifteen (24-26), and financier/Obama transition team economic policy adviser Anjan Mukherjee, who was my high school debate teammate and closest friend at the time (various places, esp. 30-33, where I describe the interesting parallels between our two immigrant experiences). Those of you who are former high school debaters yourselves might also be interested in the parts where famous debate coaches Les Phillips (my coach at Lexington HS in Massachusetts), Richard Sodikow (Bronx High School of Science), and Tim Averill (Manchester, MA) figure in the story. Obviously, I also describe my family’s life in the Brezhnev-era Soviet Union, and the reasons why my parents chose to emigrate (1-7).

I would like to thank Anjan, my parents, and others for reading over the memoir and helping me correct some factual and stylistic errors. Undoubtedly, there are some mistakes that remain, for which I alone am responsible.

Enjoy… or not, as the case may be.

UPDATE: I have fixed the flawed link to the HIAS site.