This past Saturday, as I watched images of FBI agents pacing the perimeter of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Tex., after a terrifying hostage standoff, I felt strangely glad that my father wasn’t alive to witness the scene. At the end of his life, he took great comfort in thinking he had delivered his family to safety by immigrating to the United States.
Violent, bigoted acts such as the one in Colleyville are more than isolated tragedies for immigrants who have fled their homelands seeking religious freedom. They shake our expectation of what the United States is meant to be. However naively, we come here expecting to work hard — not to be haunted by the very forces that drove us from our countries.
Antisemitism chased my father out of a small Shiite village in central Iran, where he was often pelted by rocks en route to school. When I was a child in Tehran, in the feverish revolutionary days of 1978, I opened our courtyard door one afternoon to show him a black symbol I had never seen — a swastika — scrawled on the alley wall, beside the words “Jews get lost!” He knew then that he would have to move again.