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Betrayal at Brandeis University – Another Sign of the Failure of the American Jewish Experiment

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When I was a teenager, my family knew a state labor inspector. My father sold eggs and butter for a living, so this labor inspector bought eggs directly from him instead going to the A&P or Waldbaum’s. He came over to our apartment in Brooklyn to dicker personally with my father over the price of a dozen eggs. For a half hour thereabouts he and my father would argue back and forth over a penny a dozen. We all called him “the inspector.”

One evening, the inspector came over and my father wasn’t home, just my mother and I. My mother, of course, offered him “a little something.” So, the inspector made himself at home in our kitchen. From the refrigerator he took out a five pound can of cottage cheese, helped himself to a liberal portion of it, spooning it all into a large mixing bowl. Into the same mixing bowl he poured a load of sour cream, and cut in a banana and some peaches. Then he asked my mother for some day old bread. To our horror and amazement, he finished the entire bowl of this concoction along with the day old bread.

While he was eating us out of house and home, he started to talk about himself. This man hadn’t always been a labor inspector for the state of New York. He talked about hauling ice up several flights of stairs to make a living and how he had once wanted to be a math professor at Brooklyn College. He said that at the time the city government of New York was anti-Semitic and would not hire Jews to be professors in its educational institutions.

He also talked about how he believed “the American Jewish experiment” was a failure. He asserted that if Jews in America hadn’t intermarried, there would be twenty million of them instead five million. My inability to understand him must have shown on my face because he proceeded to set up a mathematical experiment to explain what he was talking about. After he had gone on for about five minutes explaining demographics, replacement populations and how intermarriage would affect a group of one hundred young men and women over time, I remember saying to him that we didn’t have anti-Semitism in America like we did in the 1930’s.

The inspector shook his head sadly and said, “Young man, this is not about anti-Semitism at all.”

Fast forward fifteen years.

In 1980, my ex-wife and I were at services at this ritzy synagogue near the Mississippi River in Saint Paul. The young assistant rabbi talked about a class of Jewish teenagers he was teaching. In response to his question to the class, fully fifty per cent of the students said that they would consider marrying outside of the faith. Finally, the assertions of the inspector — spoken to a snotty fourteen year old who didn’t understand — began to have their impact on me.

The impact of what he told me grew and grew over time until – well it says “Ruvy in Jerusalem,” no?

Now I’m not going to rag on about intermarriage, even though it is killing the American Jewish community with far greater efficacy than any gas chamber could; because frankly, many of the non-Jews reading this won’t give a damn, and most of the North American Jews reading this will shut their minds in anger and denial. But I will say that the inspector was 100% right. The issue is not about lifting oneself out of poverty or about escaping Jew-hatred, which is what Jews generally did in immigrating to America. The issue is surviving as a viable, distinct community. This will not happen.

The American Jewish experiment is a failure. American Judaism will die off simply because American Jews have made their choice: they want to be Americans, not Jews. That is what the 50% intermarriage rate is all about: the unconscious desire to melt into America and lose the stigmata of being a Jew. In America, the final exit from the Pale of Settlement in Russia-Poland is exiting from Judaism itself and its basic loyalties.

The plot of the play “the Melting Pot,” written in 1900 by Israel Zangwill, foreshadows this eerily. In it, the protagonist, a Jewish immigrant, manages to “integrate” himself into American society by marrying his Christian social worker. His children, of course, would not be Jews. And their loyalties would be elsewhere. As if to prove my point, a great American Jewish institution has finally joined the ranks of traitors to the Jewish people. Another nail to seal the coffin shut.

On 8 May, FrontPage.com reported today that Brandeis University decided to bestow an honorary doctorate on playwright Tony Kushner, who helped write the screenplay for Steven Spielberg’s movie “Munich,” on 21 May. According to the article, Kushner thinks that Israel’s “founding was a ‘mistake.’” He excoriates Israel for “ethic cleansing” and declares that “the biggest supporters of Israel are the most repulsive members of the Jewish community and Israel itself has got this disgraceful record … Israel is a creation of the U.S., bought and paid for.”

He decries, according to FrontPage.com, “‘the deliberate destruction of Palestinian culture and a systematic attempt to destroy the identity of the Palestinian people’ – without mentioning that this ‘national identity’ was invented in the 1960’s in what turned about to be an extraordinarily successful ploy to adjust the paradigm of the Arab-Israeli conflict with the newly-minted Palestinians as the underdogs.”

If that weren’t enough, there is more. FrontPage.com reported that Brandeis’ Goldfarb Library featured a propagandistic exhibition of children’s paintings called “Voices from Palestine,” which included depictions of bloodied Palestinian children and a PLO flag in the shape of Israel, whish suggested that all of Israel belongs by right to the south Syrian Arabs.

According to FrontPage.com, adverse publicity compelled the Library to close the exhibit Wednesday, after four days of a scheduled two-week run. Yet the day after the Library closed the exhibit, Little Green Footballs reported that protestors came out at Brandeis; one carried a sign reading, “Shut Down the Israeli Apartheid Terror State/From the River to the Sea Palestine Will Be Free.”

Another read: “END Repression of Palestinian [sic] Children” – ironic considering the culture of honor killings and the culture of hate into which Arab children in our land are bathed in from toddlerhood by the PA, their clans and their parents.

And there is more. Brandeis has a Middle Eastern Studies Department with Khalil Shikaki as a senior fellow there. The university refused to consider, when it was presented to them, evidence linking Shikaki to the Islamic Jihad.

This is a university founded 58 years ago, sponsored by the American Jewish community “to embody its highest ethical and cultural values.” At least that is what its mission statement says. Louis Brandeis, an ardent supporter of the reestablishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael must be spinning in his grave.

Article author, Robert Spencer, who credits all this with the rise of the academic “new left,” goes on to criticize Brandeis for several more paragraphs, but the point here is clear. It is not the infantile “new left” that has dictated these choices at Brandeis. The University has a huge and influential alumni association that would never tolerate half of this garbage at a school that truly embodied the highest ethical and cultural values of the American Jewish community.

No.

American Jews have changed. The highest ethical and cultural values of the American Jewish community have changed. American Jews, by and large, have turned away from their homeland to embrace a “Jerusalem in the New World” in place of the real Jerusalem, my home and theirs. Their best schools are cutting off their children from their roots. Without roots, no tree can live. And that is why the American Jewish experiment, represented by a population that declined from 5.8 million in 1990 to 5.2 million in 2000, aging, plagued by a fertility rate that will not replace its numbers, and a 50% (or greater) intermarriage rate that will thin out the commitment of those who do remain, is a failure, doomed to die.

The labor inspector who wanted to be a math professor, who used to dicker with my father over the price of a dozen eggs, was prescient enough to see this in 1965, over forty years ago. Most American Jews are too stupid to see this even now. Or, they don’t give a damn.

I’m so grateful to have gotten my family out and to have come home before it was too late.

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About Ruvy

Hi!! Thanks for coming to my article! I was raised in Brooklyn, was graduated from the City University of New York in 1978 with a BA in political science and public administration there. I lived in Minnesota for a number of years. There I managed restaurants and wrote stories. We moved with our children family to Israel where we now reside. My work can be found at Ruvy's Roost, Jewish Indy,, and on Facebook under my full name, Reuven Kossover
  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy in Jerusalem

    I just got this e-mail in my inbox a few minutes ago.

    WILL YOUR GRANDCHILDREN BE JEWISH?

    This table (re-typed) is part of an extensive research project conducted by Antony Gordon and Richard M. Horowitz: The National Jewish Population Study (NJPS)

    Here are two links to the data. The fist link is the original study in 1990. The second one was a revisitation of the first study.

    UJC Study
    Will Your Grandchildren be Jewish?

    #_ftn1 (note that this table HALVES everything I typed below)

    SECULAR: First generation of 200 secular Jews will produce second generation of 73 Jews, will produce third generation of 27 Jews, will
    produce fourth generation of 10 Jews. Intermarriage rate: 72%.
    Average number of children per family 1.62 (NJPS 1990)

    REFORM: First generation of 200 Reform Jews will produce second generation of 102 Jews, will produce third generation of 52 Jews, will produce fourth generation of 27 Jews. Intermarriage rate 53%.
    Average number of children per family 1.72

    CONSERVATIVE: First generation of 200 Conservative Jews will produce second generation of 125 Jews, will produce third generation of 77
    Jews, will produce fourth generation of 48 Jews. Intermarriage rate 37%. Average number of children per family 1.82

    CENTRIST ORTHODOX: First generation of 200 Centric (ie; “modern”) Orthodox Jews will produce second generation of 302 Jews, will
    produce third generation of 457 Jews, will produce fourth generation of 692 Jews. Intermarriage rate 3%. Average number of children per family 3.23

    HASSIDIC ORTHODOX AND YESHIVA ORTHODOX: First generation of 200 Hassidic and Yeshiva orthodox Jews will produce second generation of
    591 Jews, will produce third generation of 1748 Jews, will produce fourth generation of 5157 Jews. Intermarriage rate 3%. Average number of children per family 6.4

    Based on current intermarriage rates and the average number of
    children per family, the chances of young contemporary Jews having
    Jewish grandchildren, great-grandchildren, with the exception of the
    Orthodox, are increasingly remote.

    The one thing this study does not show (and cannot estimate) is how many of these Jews will come home to Israel.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy in Jerusalem

    The information in Comment #1 refers to the United States. Based on the data, I had a small chance of seeing Jewish grandchildren. That wasn’t good enough for me. The success of a community is measured by whether it continues or not. The chart in Comment #1 tells the story. the betrayal at Brandeis gives the reason for the numbers…

  • http://thehoot.net Brandeis Alumn

    As someone who graduated Brandeis in the fall, and who has read and reported on FrontPage for the Justice (One of Brandeis’s School Papers), I caution you to take everything they write with a grain of salt and double check their facts (if you can differentiate them from their opinion).

    For example the op-ed says “adverse publicity” caused Brandeis to close the exhibit. This is very much false. The exhibit was closed because a handful of students complained about it to the sponsor of the exhibit. Most students disagreed with what the administration (certain administrators) did not because they agree with the exhibit but because they realize that Brnadeis has had so many pro-Israel one sided events that its good to not be ignorant and learn what the other side is thinking.

    Now on to the protest that followed: The protest was crashed by off-campus nuts (as evident by their signs). All of the students at the protest who supported returning the exhibit to campus DID NOT support these off campus morons. If you look at the pictures, you’ll see that all anti-Israel signs are held up by a significantly older crowd than one would expect to be Brandeis students. In fact, there’s a whole discussion on Brandeis mailing lists by the students sponsors of the protest on how pissed off they were that the hateful off campus ones were allowed on campus.

    Let’s move on to Khalil Shikaki. In the United States people are innocent until proven guilty. Shikaki was never convicted of supporting terrorism (which is a crime in the U.S.). It is wrong to convict someone via rumors and speculation in the media of a crime the person was not convicted of in the court system. You may argue that the links are obvious because his brother was a terrorist, but it’s wrong to convict someone based on what their brother did/does…such as with Billy Bulger and his brother Whitey Bulger here in Massachusetts. One was the head mobster in the state the other was the president of the State University. Bottom line is, if the evidence against him won’t stand up in court then he is innocent and Brandeis should not base their hiring/firing of him based on accusations from a newspaper that demonstrated a clear extreme bias over the years of its existence.

    I’m curious of what the author means when he says “The highest ethical and cultural values of the American Jewish community have changed.” From what to what and did American Jews always have the same values? As someone who has been at Brandeis, I can tell you that at Brandeis these values have been debated from the day it was founded. Is Brandeis a school that provides refuge to Jews, women and minorities that weren’t allowed to attend Ivey’s due to quotas? Not any more but that was a purpose once. If its no longer needed to help Jews, then maybe its needed to help other not able to go to Ivey’s? Is Brandeis a school that stands for social Justice? Depends what you define as social Justice. What do Brandeis students think about Israel? Depends whom you ask and the year you ask in.

    When it comes to Brandeis, I suggest you read Diversity At Brandeis: A real Turkey by Harry Mairson (professor of Computer Science).

    Also, I’m sorry for any gramatical/spelling errors as I’m typing this rather fast.

  • http://thehoot.net Brandeis Alum

    On a different subject, as a secular Jewish student (from the former USSR) I can tell you one of the reason that may be causing the lack of carrying from secular, reform, conservative Jews about inter-marriage. At Brandeis I did not feel welcome with the majority of the orthodox (lumping in Modern, Ultra and regular) Jewish population because I wasn’t religious. I felt more at home with the minority of non-religious jews and other secular (or non-orthodox) students (Christians, Asians, Muslims). There’s sort of a stigma attached to only practicing Judaism to the extent I’m comfortable with (or just culturally).

    The fact is much of it revolved around the hypocrisy of the orthodox community that preached all of these religious principles while not practicing many of them. The problem wasn’t even the preaching as much as that many had a superiority complex about the fact that they are religious and you aren’t. This leads to many students like me to be much more comfortable in secular company and thus not caring about intermarriage or whom I date…etc. Don’t get me wrong, I’m generalizing here so not everyone acts that way, but most of the time I found Orthodox /Religious students only accepting non-religious students when they think there’s hope for them to becoming orthodox (they act sort of like missionaries for secular Jews).

    The fact that I feel more welcome, less judged outside my own religion/culture is the reason I have no qualms about intermarriage. I’d rather be part of a community that accepts my for who I am than one that constantly criticizes me for not going to minion every morning and for driving my car on Shabbat.

    Another point I want to mention that’s driving some people out is the fact that anytime anyone hints that Israel did something wrong or could so something differently that person is jumped all over and branded anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist without his argument being refuted or addressed (at Brandeis especially). Someone points out that perhaps Israel could have blown a car with a terrorist in it in a less populated neighborhood to avoid civilian causalities and that person gets accused of being a traitor, gets ostracized and labeled ant-Jewish/Semitic/Zionist, Palestinian loving ass hole. They are told “Israel is right because terrorists don’t care for civilian casualties so Israel shouldn’t either. You are _________ for even brining it up (fill in the blank from the list previously mentioned)” It’s as Israel should not act morally because its enemies don’t act morally as well. Why are we holding Israel to the standards of terrorists and not to the alleged standards of Judaism? The point is, most cultural/secular Jews feel attacked and rightly just stop carrying about the Jewish community and all it represents. If the community wants to attack anyone critical of it, brand them a traitor/outcast/unJewish then why bother being part of it? Why care about it?

    I guess I want to conclude this overly long comment with saying that yes the number of Jews are thinning and yes it could lead to the extinction of the Jewish race but attacking, criticizing or guilting those whom you think are responsible is not the way to go. You will only drive them out further. Instead understand why secular through conservative Jews leave the religion when marrying and try to address that, try creating an environment where they are proud of being Jewish and want to stay (versus proud of the cultural heritage of Jews but no particular bond to todays Jewry).

  • Doesn’t add up

    Given the math, it stands that the Jewish population will only increase…from 1000 to start to over 5,000 in several generations so I don’t see the problem here.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Brandeis Alum,

    First of all, don’t worry about your spelling. There is no spell check on this particular comment medium. [If you are reading, EO or Chris, that would really be a nice addition to set BC apart and above the rest…]

    I’ll answer you as you have addresed me – in two comments.

    I’m going to take a guess here. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. Your parents chose to leave the former USSR and left for the United States. You learned English and worked hard and got into Brandeis. End of guess.

    Once there, you found a majority of Jewish students there to be observant (in one variety or another) and not particularly accepting of less observant Jews unless they were willing to become more observant. So you didn’t really want to be part of that crowd. They were too snooty for you.

    Funny how things do not change over the decades.

    When I was your age, I wasn’t terribly religious at all and didn’t care, and found the same crowd of people to be just as snooty as you do. The big difference was that I wasn’t in a Jewish school per se.

    And when I was your age, I didn’t care about intermarriage that much either. The big difference between you and I was the Six Day War and the fact that when it happened, I was hanging with a crowd of secular Israelis. It pumped a Jewish nationalism into me that I had never really understood before.

    I suspect that in your young life, you have never seen Isael do anythng that would make a Jew’s chest swell with pride. It’s one thing to hear about something that happened years ago or read of it in history books, and quite another to witness it and its consequences in your own day.

    All you appear to have witnessed is a minority of observant Jews (who in Brandeis are a majority) feeling very defensive over attacks on a beleagered country that is the center of the lives of observant Jews, even if they wish it weren’t so.

    Let me explain this to you. Every time some observant Jew recites grace after meals, he says, among other things, “Blessed is He Who builds Jerusalem” and “May the Merciful One break the oppression from off of our necks and lead us back in dignity to our country.” Öur country” doe not mean Monsey NJ, or North Miami. IT MEANS ISRAEL. Remember, grace after meals is recited every time you bless bread. Every falafel, every tuna sandwich, every bagel smeared with cream cheese…

    And these kids, like you, have never seen Israel do anything that would make a Jew’s chest swell with pride. All they see is the attacks on Israel and on Jews, and the unwelcome sympathy for their attackers.

    My questions are these?

    Why was there a “Voices from Palestine” exhibit at Brandeis in the first place? Duke, Harvard, Yale, Stamford, Northwestern, I can understand. But Brandeis? Does Yeshiva University have a “Taking Jesus Into My Heart” exhibit?

    Why is Tony Kushner, who curses the land that the majority of students at Brandeis bless in their grace after meals, getting an honorary doctorate at Brandeis? Their wasn’t enough parchment at Columbia this year?

    Why does Brandeis have to hire the brothr of a terrorist? There was no room at the university of Florida?

    Now do not get me wrong. I do not jerk my knee every time someone criticizes this country or its policies and scream “anti-Semite!” If you look up my other articles published at Blog Critics, you’ll see that I am no friend of the Israeli government. I’m a very harsh critic. The students at Brandeis badly need a course in reality so far as the Middle East goes.

    But reality is not the trash bandied about by the Arabs who want to destroy Israel and exterminate us, and who will pull your strings and jerk your chain any way they can. And even if FrontPage.com is a bit one sided in its reportage, remember that the AP, UP, CNN, BBC, CBC, Agencé France Press and Reuters are all one sided as well – condemning Israel and Jews and continually casting aspersions on our right to this nation, as well as everything the Jewish people try to do here… We need someone pulling for our side too.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Brandeis Alum,

    Now comes the comment that deals with faith. It isn’t my place to tell you to be more observant. Especially not I, a person who was not observant for over four decades.

    As a small child, Jews are taught “do and you will understand.” This is sufficient for a small child. It teaches routine. But an adult needs to understand. And the catch with faith is that I can’t give it to you or anyone else. You yourself have to find it. And you won’t find it unless you think it is worth seeking out.

    I can attempt to lead you in the direction of understanding, but that is all I can do. The observant kids at your school did not understand “kirúv” – outreach. They did not know to seek out your needs and attempt to meet them before trying to get you to go along with their program – or more to the point, allow you to see how much of their program was in reality also yours.

    As for me, a former American, I see the change in Jews there in my own sister, who like I was, is not particularly observant.

    “What do you care if your kids marry a Jew or not?” Her line to me.

    But I do care. I sense that this caring is the least I can do for my father, who suffered because he was a Jew, for my grandfather, and for his father, all of whom suffered in the Russian Empire because they were Jews. Who am I that I have the right to let all that suffering go down the tubes just so that I could have a good life and not have to care? That question is one I pose to you to ponder over time. I do not have to doubt your Jewish identity.

    But the data in Comment #1 tells the story. If you have a high intermarrage rate and a low number of kids, your kind just disappears. This is not what the UJC wanted to learn when they commissioned that study 16 years ago. They are not observant Jews and have no use for observant Jews. But the numbers do not lie. Their own epitaph is written in that study. The secular, conservative and reform Jews will disappear and many of the observant Jews will in time, wake up and come home. And that will be the end of the Jewish community in America.

  • Just curious…

    Ruvy, you said it explicitly here: “As for me, a former American….”, and I’ve been kind of wondering. (What with your frequent comments to American posters about “your country” or “your government” or “your president“) Have you actually renounced your US citizenship? You’re not a dual (US/Israel) citizen? And if you have renounced your US citizenship, how does the IRS take to that idea? I read some time back in the Wall Street Journal that the IRS goes after those who renounce their citizenship, trying to lay claim to some humongous percentage of their assets for 10 years into the future, or some such.

    Sorry if I sound like I’m prying into your personal affairs too much. But then, how much can someone who, unbidden, regales us with an account of his Passover haemorhoids, claim to be a zealous guardian of his own privacy?

  • http://www.eicenterprises.org John Conlin

    Hi Ruvy,

    I just found this post. I guess this answers my question to you at my most recent post about whether you would want a daughter to marry a heathen like me. I’m certain it is my loss.

    Why do you retain your American citizenship, especially since you state “I’m so grateful to have gotten my family out and to have come home before it was too late.”

    Please have some consistency. In this post you are lucky you got out, in your response to my post you claim American citizenship and that you have the right to argue about US population densities. I am an American – in every breath I take, every aspect of my being, my allegiance is to no other. Since you seem to believe you have “escaped” from America, please send us back your citizenship, send it COD, we’ll pick up the charges.

    But please watch out for that wingnut in Iran – he truly plans to end the country of Israel, and I’m afraid he’ll gladly “trade” a few Iranian cities for your country.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Just Curious,

    If you read over your own post, you’ll see that you just answered you own question. If the IRS wants to sniff me out via a trail of hemorrhoids, they are, of course, welcome to…

  • Just Curious…

    Sorry, I’m kind of dense, apparently. When I ask simple yes-or-no type questions I tend to hope for straight yes-or-no answers. E.g., “Yes, I have renounced my US citizenship.” or “No, I have not renounced my US citizenship.” “Yes, I am a dual citizen.” “No, I am not a dual citizen.”

    If the answer is, “Look, I said ‘former American’, ‘your country’, and all that; isn’t it obvious I’m not American now?” then I’m still confused, b/c I seem to have seen you writing to John Conlin on another post that you have the right to comment on US population issues b/c you’re still American.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Just Curious,

    It’s really kind of simple. If the time should come that I wish to be elected to office in this country, I will have to renounce my citizenship. I see no reason to otherwise. Doing so creates two kinds of hassles. One, you mentioned yourself. The second is that if I wish to visit the land of my birth, I’ll have to wait some six or seven months for a visa. That’s enough to give a person another hemorrhoid – and something by which the IRS could sniff me out…

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy in Jerusalem

    This is another article about Tony Kushner being honored at Brandeis, from the Zionist Organization of America website.

  • http://thehoot.net Brandeis Alumn

    I wouldn’t call it an article. It’s a press release. Article implies some sort of journalistic impartiality.

  • Bonnie

    Dear All,

    As a Catholic U.S. theology student, I have a comment. The U.S. and European cultures have gone totally blonkers over this “I feel sorry for the Palestinians” kick.

    God bless Israel and the Jews!! You keep the world holy.

    Please forgive me if I have offended anyone.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Bonnie,

    People like you are sweethearts. That you can see that “the U.S. and European cultures have gone totally blonkers over this ‘I feel sorry for the Palestinians’ kick,” makes you wiser than your years.

    It appears that Europeans are a tad less sympathetic than they used to be for the Arabs who call themselves “Palestinians.” But I doubt if this will translate into enthusiasm for a Jewish state in Israel.

    From what friends of mine in Europe tell me, the vast majority of Europeans are relapsing into agnosticism, atheism or some form of neo-paganism while maintaining the appearance of nominal Christianity. Western civilization, which attempts to marry Judaic moral values with Greek aesthetic ones appears finally to be rejecting the Judaic moral values and embracing Greek aestheticism.

    So on the one hand, they might reject OUR claim to the Land, which at bottom is a religious one, and at the same time feel little sympathy for the Arabs trying to kill us.

  • midnight

    As a non-Jewish Brandeis alumni, I can not speak about being Jewish, however during my entire time at Brandeis I felt like a second class citizen because I wasn’t Jewish. If that is really what being Jewish is, then you will not hear me complain if every single Jew in the USA moved to a different country. Fortunately I have meet some great people who just happen to be Jewish who didn’t care if I was Jewish or not and treated me like a fellow human being.

    One thing to keep in mind is that the United states is a huge melting pot where every culture has to fight to not become adsorbed and amalgamated into the whole. Ask any immigrant from any country around the word who lives in the USA.