My mother was born in Egypt in the 1940s and was part of a vibrant Jewish community there until persecution, intolerance, and eventually expulsion of Jews began taking place. Her family fled Egypt as refugees to await acceptance by countries around the world. My mother, at the age of 5, left her childhood home with her parents and sister and lived temporarily in London, then Rome, until eventually coming to the United States.
My mother and her family had been in limbo—stateless—for nearly a decade prior to being admitted into the U.S. Six years later, my mother met my father, himself an immigrant to the U.S. from Israel, although not as a refugee. This country welcomed my parents and their families, and they were able to get a new start, complete their educations, and eventually marry, raise a family, and become part of the rich fabric of this country.
Today, decades after my mother’s family came seeking refuge, the future of many hopeful refugees and immigrants is in limbo. As the daughter of an immigrant and a refugee, it’s especially painful for me to see families and children detained in airports or sent back to the countries they’re fleeing. I’ve been thinking a lot about those families—their pain and their fears. And I’ve been wondering, where are the silver linings?
We are committed to building a just, connected, and inclusive community in which systemic racism and its consequences no longer exist.
So many things happening around us stand in direct opposition to the values and the work that many of us do every day in our communities. The overt racism, sexism, and xenophobia we have witnessed and experienced–both inside and outside government, make it easy to look at our current circumstances as a big step back. From the border wall, to the travel ban, to the nearly all-white male cabinet, to the hate crimes and hate speech that have appeared in schools, universities, and across the country, much of what we’ve seen has been disheartening and frightening.
At Meyer, we are committed to building a just, connected, and inclusive community in which systemic racism and its consequences no longer exist. Under the direction of our board, we have deliberately examined our mission and aligned our goals to meet this commitment. Despite what we are seeing in our country, I believe we are closer to achieving this vision within our region than we were a year ago, with important and necessary work ahead of us.
Our grantees and partners embedded in the community see the urgency of the work before us, too. For example, as soon as the executive order to implement a travel ban came down, people got to work. And as we all saw, so many more people are stepping up and taking a stand, no longer okay with remaining silent. We couldn’t be prouder of the way people from all walks of life stood up and made their voices heard, with a number of our grantees leading the way.
Over the last several years, we’ve seen considerable momentum across the country as many people and communities have committed to eradicating institutional racism and the racist barriers that affect our citizens. That momentum continues and is accelerating as more individuals and organizations, appalled by what they’re seeing, are taking a public stand; people who, before now, might have been unwilling or too fearful to leave their comfort zone to be a part of these important conversations and this critical work. And Meyer is standing beside these partners.
This togetherness—moving toward shared goals—is what has inspired me in the midst of the uncertainty facing our communities and our country. I know that silver linings may be difficult to see right now. I imagine that, at times, my parents also struggled to find them. But eventually, they emerged. I’m confident that my life today is evidence of that.
My hope during these troubling times is that all of us who are working every day to eliminate inequity can see and feel the silver linings, and know that we are all in this together—let’s use the tools we have to prevent history from repeating itself.
Nicky Goren is president and CEO of the Meyer Foundation.