chapter  1
8 Pages

Introduction to the Project

Our friendship undoubtedly has both a personal and cultural basis. Both of us are in our fifties, born at the beginning of the post-World War II baby boom to parents who grew up in New York City. Both of us claim a Jewish heritage, Joel through both parents and Peter through his father's family (Peter's mother comes from a German-Irish Catholic family). Our Jewish ancestors originate in Eastern Europe, where the pogroms-govemmentsupported massacres of Jews-and conscription into the Russian army forced their families' immigration to the United States. Similarly, on Peter's mother's side, immigration was forced by the Irish potato famine of 1845 to 1850, which many current Irish historians now regard as both an act of nature and an act of genocide, given that food exports from Ireland actually increased for Protestant merchants during the great famine (e.g., Metress & Rajner, 1996). We recount this heritage not to begin by claiming status as victims, but because we are proud of these heritages and the courage and perseverance it took to escape from these hostile circumstances. We imagine that our forebears would fare well in just about any conception of good character, having maintained their beliefs and families despite vigorous efforts to suppress and eradicate them and having overcome tremendous obstacles to emigrate to a nation that provided them with new opportunities

for freedom of expression and belief and opportunities to provide good lives for their children.