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Coming to America: Stories of Immigration from Richmond's Jewish Community

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Published on Feb 17, 2014

Clips from a panel discussion at the Weinstein JCC in Richmond, Virginia on Sunday, February 16, 2014.

We celebrated Richmond's Jewish community's immigration history over the last century and discussed how those immigration stories are both similar to and different from today's immigrants to Richmond.

Community leader and businessman, Mark Sisisky, son of the late Congressman Norman Sisisky, was the event's moderator. Roben Farzad, Jay Ipson and Janet Meyers shared their family immigration stories, as will Guatemalan immigrant to Richmond, Felipe Marroquin (bios below). We also got a sneak peek at a forthcoming documentary about Richmond's Soviet Jewish immigrant community, "Draw Back the Curtain," which has been created by students at the University of Richmond Hillel and Jewish Family Services.

Host Committee:
Rabbi Gary Creditor, Temple Beth El

Rabbi Andrew Goodman, Director of Jewish Life and Campus Rabbi at University of Richmond

Marco A. Grimaldo, CEO & President of Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy

Abby Levine, Jewish Social Justice Roundtable

Debbie Linick, Director for DC and Northern Virginia, JCRC of Greater Washington

Rabbi Ben Romer, Congregation Or Ami

Alan Ronkin, American Jewish Committee

Susan Sisisky, Community Volunteer

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Panelists:

Roben Farzad is a Bloomberg Businessweek contributor and an immigrant from Iran. He has written for The New York Times, Boston Globe, and The Wall Street Journal and appears on NPR, CNBC, PBS, CNN, and BBC News. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Business School, Farzad began his career at Goldman Sachs.

Jay M. Ipson is a Litvak-American Holocaust survivor and co-founder of the Virginia Holocaust Museum in Richmond, Virginia. The Ipp family arrived in the United States on June 12, 1947. His father found work cleaning bathrooms in a gas station. His mother Edna worked as a seamstress in Thalhimer's department store. To make their integration into American society easier, they decided to change their family name to Ipson.

In 2012, Felipe Marroquin's wife of more than twenty years was deported, leaving him and his daughters shattered. His family valued education, performed volunteer work in their community and at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Richmond, and honored the country they call home. He did everything in his power to save his wife from deportation, paying thousands in legal fees, rallied support of their community and church, yet nothing could save his family from the brutal deportation.

Janet Slipow Meyers is a first generation native Richmonder who will share her family's immigration story as well as the story of her husband's family, who founded the Heilig-Meyers furniture company. Meyers is a lifelong educator and an active member of the local chapter of Hadassah and the Jewish Women's Club.

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