Five Jewish Baltimoreans share their immigration stories.

Since the first Jewish immigrants set sail from Brazil to New Amsterdam in 1654, Jews have traveled to America seeking safe haven, religious freedom, the promise of economic security and a better life for themselves and their families.

Jewish immigrants weren’t alone in their yearning to become American citizens. Around the world, the United States was recognized as a country that welcomed immigrants of all backgrounds — a “melting pot” —where cultural diversity and religious freedom were championed and opportunity was available for all.

In recent years, however, America’s immigration policy has become a lightning rod for political controversy. Since taking office in 2016, President Donald Trump and his administration have worked to enact legislation banning individuals from six Muslim majority countries from entering our country. Though early versions of the president’s so-called travel bans led to mass protests and were temporarily enjoined by lower courts, the U.S. Supreme Court last month ruled that most natives of Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea could be lawfully banned from entering the country.

Nowadays, Jews represent a tiny percentage of the immigrants and refugees seeking admission to the U.S. Yet, the fact remains: Immigration has played a pivotal role in shaping the Jewish-American experience.

Jmore speaks with five Jewish Baltimoreans who emigrated to the U.S. Though they hail from countries as diverse as Chile, Egypt, Israel and South Africa, and they came to the U.S. for a variety of reasons, all share an abiding affection and deep appreciation for their adopted homeland.

Seems Like a Dream — Irina Herbst

A Personal Exodus Out of Egypt — Nadia Massuda

Leaving South Africa — Janine Frier

Goose Bumps & Jazz — Dr. Eugene Katz

Coming to America was a Moving Experience — Orly Shalem

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