New York is a city of immigrants, something we are reminded of every day at the Museum when we look across the river at Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. We asked some of our staff members to tell us their family’s immigration stories. Samantha Shokin, Manager of Public Programs, shares her family’s immigration journey to the United States below.
My parents arrived separately in the late 70s/early 80s. My mom and her family came from Kyiv, Ukraine, and my dad came with his family from Vilnius, Lithuania. They came under refugee status following the international movement to free Soviet Jewry. They left in order to escape discrimination against Jews in the USSR and also in search of economic opportunity here in the US. My mom’s family settled in Brooklyn, and my dad’s settled in Elizabeth, New Jersey. They were teenagers when they arrived, and met in New York as adults.
My parents didn’t attend 4-year college. My mom received a business certificate from Brooklyn College, where she studied typing and shorthand, and was looking for work as a secretary. They met when she answered a want ad in the paper submitted by my dad, who had just opened an auto body shop in the city. He hired her and they fell in love, and the rest is history. They still work together as small business owners to this day, and make a great team, running a boutique wine and spirit company based out of Brooklyn. My dad imports wines from Europe and blends artisanal spirits. My sister does their marketing and PR, and my mom keeps the books and manages paperwork. I even ran social media for them at some point, so it’s really a family affair.
Tablet recently published Samantha’s article “Learning to Love Yiddish.”