My family and I emigrated to New York in 1993 from Baku, Azerbaijan. Prior to that we lived in Nahariya, Israel where I was born. My mother’s family lived in Israel at the time so my parents went there due to unsafe hospital conditions in Baku. However a year after my birth they decided to go back to Baku. There was a war in Baku when arriving from Israel and it was no longer a safe environment to live in. My uncle was living in the United States and informed us that life in New York was better and had more opportunities.
It was very difficult for my parents to leave their old life behind and adjust to a new life in a new country. New York was different and scary for my parents because of the language barrier and the new environment they had to adjust to. Due to new life in a new country it was difficult to be financially stable. I t took my father about a year to find a job and when he did, he received less than minimum wage. Thankfully, my uncle that had called us here offered my dad a construction job and we began living better. Once we were on our feet and were doing better financially my father was able to go to college. He received a degree that allowed him to work at a city job. Once we arrived to America, so did my aunts and uncles. We all supported each other and had many family gatherings and celebrated Jewish holidays together.
I am very grateful that my parents had the bravery to leave all they had in Baku and come to America. America gave them the opportunities that they never had before. America gave my family freedom to pursue their dreams. In addition my family was able to gain religious freedom that they could not achieve in Baku. My father’s family, mainly my grandfather, was unable to practice Judaism in Baku. My father told us kids of how they had to practice in secret. My father learned a lot from my grandfather and applied many customs to our family. My family has a meal every Friday night and observes all the Jewish holidays. My parents sent my siblings and me to a yeshiva starting from kindergarten. I’m thankful that they send us all to yeshiva because I now have a connection to my Jewish background. In addition it allowed my parents to be okay with my younger brother to go to seminary in Israel.
I am very proud that I was born in Israel and have visited in the past. My mother’s family lives there and I visited with her a few times when I was younger. I had another opportunity to visit Israel with an organization named Birth Right. Israel is a second home to me and I feel very connected to it because it is my birth place. I cannot wait to visit again and make unforgettable memories.