Let me tell you a story about Stephen Miller and chain migration. Dr. David S. Glosser shared a story about the Senior White House Advisor in Politico last year. He wrote about his great-grandfather, Wolf-Leib, and his great-uncle, Nathan, who, in the early 1900s, fled anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe and immigrated to the United States. Once here, they were able to bring the rest of their immediate family to the U.S., where the Glossers became successful citizens. They epitomized the American Dream.
Dr. Glosser is Stephen Miller’s maternal uncle. Miller’s politics of ethnic demonization have pervaded President Trump’s speeches and policies. Miller’s views debase our country’s origin story and threaten that same American Dream pursued by six generations of his own family.
Like Dr. Glosser’s, my story takes place in the centuries-old agricultural village of Antopol, Belarus, but my story begins several decades later, when life had worsened for Antopol’s Jews. My great-grandmother Ruth immigrated to North America in 1930 with the help of her American sponsor, her Aunt Fannie Nisselbaum. Ruth married Morris, and they had four children, eleven grandchildren, thirteen great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren. Ruth’s parents and six of her eight siblings refused to follow her out of Antopol. They had lived there for generations and thought they would be safe in their village. They were mistaken; all who remained perished in the Holocaust.
I recently looked for more information about Aunt Fannie for a school project. According to her obituary, Fannie emigrated from Antopol decades before Ruth. She then helped many refugees escape Europe during both World Wars. I learned Fannie’s married name, Glosser. In America, Fannie had married her cousin, Nathan, a central figure in Dr. Glosser’s immigration story. This is how I learned I am related to Stephen Miller.
In his article, Dr. Glosser criticized his nephew’s innate hypocrisy, opposing immigration when he descended from immigrants. Amidst news reports of family separation at the border, Dr. Glosser revealed that Stephen Miller is an American solely because the U.S. government once supported family reunification, not separation. Today, I am also criticizing Stephen Miller’s hypocrisy and promotion of white supremacy. Amidst news reports of calls for Miller’s resignation, I am instead asking that he remember his family’s history.
I don’t know the extent to which Stephen Miller identifies with his Jewish heritage. I do not know the extent to which I identify with mine. However, I do know one unsettling truth. It does not matter how much we identify with our heritage, because other people will always identify us by it. Eighty years ago, when the Nazis purged Europe of its Jewish population, they did not care if the Jews they murdered were religious. They only cared if they were Jewish. It would not have mattered what our personal religious beliefs were or how we preferred to label ourselves. Hitler and the Nazis would have considered us Jewish, and, in turn, a threat. Judaism is part of my identity, as it is part of Stephen Miller’s identity. It was determined for us many years before either Miller or I was born. Neither of us can fully detach ourselves from our religion because it is ingrained in our family trees. We cannot disassociate from our ancestors, those who immigrated during World War II and those who were murdered in the Holocaust.
Spurred by politicians and felt by minorities, white supremacy has become normalized. As a result, antisemitism is resurfacing. According to the FBI, hate crimes against Jews rose 60% last year. Stephen Miller seems to have forgotten the roots from which his family tree grows. Or, perhaps Stephen Miller thinks he will be safe from the growing hate and violence against Jews, for his family has lived in America for generations. That is what our family in Antopol thought, too. They all died.