Steven Durlauf (Willam F. Vilas Research Professor and Kenneth J. Arrow Professor of Economics at UW-Madison):
Why I Take Attacks on Muslims and Hispanics Very Personally: My paternal grandmother Sophia Ruderman Durlauf, was born in Dniepropetrovsk (then Ekaterinislav) Ukraine (then Russia), in 1899. When she was a little girl, she survived a pogrom in the now-forgotten village in which she was growing up. It was a close call; she was trampled by a Cossack’s horse and badly injured after disobeying her parents and somehow leaving the cubbyhole in which they had hidden her. Her family travelled to Minsk, from which her father left for America and sent for my grandmother and the rest of her family, arriving in 1906. Had her family stayed in Ukraine, it is very possible they would have died in the Holocaust.
My grandmother spoke perfect, accent free English. She told me, in her late 60’s, of her still vivid memories of being taunted for lack of English, and shared her recollections of all the anti-Semitic epithets she heard growing up in poverty in Manhattan. She was apparently a terrific student. But in her senior year of high school, she was told by her principal that she was too poor to go to college and that her responsibility was to get a job and support her family. These barriers did not stop her from having a rich and fascinating life, including taking night courses from Will Durant at the New School for Social Research (as it was then called) and working as a close secretary to Margaret Sanger, so she was present at the beginning of Planned Parenthood. And her grandchildren (my sister and me) have lived extraordinarily privileged lives and my father grew up in middle class comfort.
When my grandmother died, I helped my father clean out her house. I found hundreds of cancelled checks she had written over the years, carefully organized by type of bill. For checks made out to the government, she routinely wrote “Thank You” as the memo. When I asked my father why she did this, his answer was that she was saying “Thank you for asking me to pay my bill rather than smashing down the door to my home and taking anything you wanted.” For me, this lover of the United Nations and for that matter all other pieties of post WWII liberalism, was also the most patriotic person I have ever known.