Between 1892 and 1954, more than 12 million immigrants entered the United States through Ellis Island, and my great-great-grandparents, Marty and Gladys, just happened to be among them. Before they migrated, my Jewish great-grandparents and their two children lived a happy life in Hungary, a small country located in Central Europe. My grandmother tells me that they lived in a primarily Jewish town and while Gladys was devoted to the children, Marty worked as a jeweler and locksmith. Like other families in the community, they attended temple and tried to help others as much as possible. All was good for them until year 1940, when Nazi occupation took control. Nazi soldiers persecuted the Jews and ordered them to discard all of their belongings associated with Judaism, including necklaces with a Star of David. Although he could have suffered from major consequences, my grandfather decided to keep the star hidden with him instead. “This necklace was the last piece of identity he had left, and he wasn’t going to let anyone take that from him.” says my grandmother. It took my relatives two months to save up enough money to embark on their journey, and three weeks to make it across the ocean to America. There was very little he could take with him, but my grandfather still kept his star. The star has been traditionally passed down throughout my family since, and I had the honor of receiving it. Every time I put it on, I share the same sense of identity my relatives felt years ago.
– Jordan Dampf