Fleeing the oppression of Tsarist Russia and the Old World, my great-grandfather, also named David Weinman, immigrated to this country around the turn of the century.
In the United States, he found opportunities which would have been unthinkable in his country of origin. Even though he had no money and little formal education, David quickly found work in the jewelry industry. Within a few short years he was able to build his own jewelry business that persists to this day.
Although his story represents the classic American tale of successful assimilation and the promise this nation has offered to those who seek it, David’s life also demonstrates the great challenges and hardships which the immigrant endured. Learning a completely unfamiliar language and navigating the delicate balance of adapting to a new culture while preserving sacred traditions and values must have been a great struggle. In a nation of immigrants, his experiences certainly were not uncommon.
In the Short Term of 2013, I was fortunate enough to participate in a project titled “All Points North: Stories of Immigration,” with Zoe Fahy ’14. It was lead by Phyllis Graber Jensen and funded in part by the organization Documenting Maine Jewry. Our work focused on reaching out to members of the Lewiston/Auburn community to help them share and document their personal and familial stories immigrating to this country.
This project culminated in a booklet, which was distributed to the freshman class. On Thursday, October 30 from 12:00 to 1:00 P.M. we will be presenting this project with many of its participants in Commons 221 and 222.
Although each experience presents its own unique circumstances, these stories all displayed many common themes such as the importance of family, hope, and perseverance. Although a great deal has changed since my great-grandfather immigrated to this country, I was amazed by how much his life had in common with many of the people who were generous enough to share their stories with me.
The aspirations and experiences of immigrants in our nation today not only connect us to our past but also reaffirm our identity as a nation. It is critical that our nation not lose sight of this critical truth. We would all benefit from a better and more nuanced understanding of these stories not only in the Lewiston/Auburn area, but also throughout our nation.