Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Canada – CCCVI. New York (2 of 4)

While the next two days were dedicated to the New York`s World Fair, I had left enough time to spend with my relatives.  I had numerous conversations with aunt Esther, and gradually obtained an overall picture of what their life had been in their new country.  Of course, this was a two way street, and I gave her an overview of our life in Israel, and of Israel in specific.

There is no paradise on earth, and life in Egypt had its drawbacks; but it was our native land, and in many ways we were spoiled.  Overnight, we found ourselves without a country, how difficult that was depended on where you ended.  To my mind, Joseph and Esther were fortunate; after all they winded up in the most coveted country on the planet:  America!

After talking to my aunt, I no longer saw them as particularly lucky.  Yes, the U.S. had a lot to offer, but there were many negative aspects that made their life, at least at the onset, difficult.  Thereafter, it got easier, but never easy.

Briefly, this is what she told me.

The HIAS* proved a lifesaver, not only did it help financially, but it kept the new immigrants afloat on the choppy waters of everyday American life.  This organization was able to resolve many of the problems newcomers encountered.

[* Stands for Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.  This organization assists Jews and other groups of people who, out of necessity, need to relocate to another country.]

Joseph was an auditor, a profession that was highly regarded at the time, but that had been sullied with many financial scandals occurring right under the nose of the auditors.  As far as I know, my uncle didn’t work in auditing in the U.S.; rather he worked as an accountant.  Joseph was one of those old school accountants who spurned the adding machine, for he could add a column of figure in minutes.  Even more important, he could look at the books and answer many of your questions regarding the finances of the entity in question.  He would have laughed at the analysis and modelling carried out today to determine the health of a business.

What I am trying to say is that my uncle had no trouble landing a job.  Indeed, it happened before he got a chance to familiarize himself with his new country.  And aunt Esther had to tackle many issues on her own. That said, finding work being their main concern; Esther was more than willing to tackle the numerous issues that presented themselves.  In truth she was not really alone; she was helped by the HIAS and her son Raymond.  Rèmi was still young at the time, but he is a brilliant individual; and today he is one of the most notable lawyers in the U.S.

Medical care was another area that took my relatives by surprise.  In Egypt, when you went to a doctor for a consultation, you paid a reasonable fee.  A stay at the hospital was expensive, but it didn’t put you into the poorhouse.  Not so in America.  The fee for a family doctor was substantial; for a specialist it was shocking.  Not many people paid right after their visit, rather the doctor send them a statement at the end of the month.  Dental work could be downright frightful, and many dentists allowed their patients to pay over many months.  Hospital?  A long illness could literally devastate you financially; it could cost you as much as a hundred to two hundred dollars a night depending how sick you were; and that did not include tests and various other expenses.

I was bowled over by this information, but Esther quickly reassured me.  They had medical insurance that paid for all (except dentistry) medical expenses.  It was expensive but worth every penny.  As for me, I was lucky I was going to Canada; they had free hospital care, and Medicare (to cover doctor’s fees) was on the way.  The costs were covered by a premium paid directly to the state.

We never concerned ourselves with military service.  Many of us were foreign nationals or stateless; but even Egyptian Jews were never asked to serve in the Egyptian armed forces.  However, here in America, a fit male was expected to join the army.  And my aunt was sick with worry wondering if Rèmi would be drafted.  Mercifully, for the time being, there was an escape hatch; as long as he was in university he would not be called; thereafter, his fitness and the army needs would determine his fate.  One more point was the skills he offered to the armed forces; for example, an experienced mechanic was invaluable to them; for remember that for any army there are more people serving the forces than actual soldiers; Rèmi was going to be a lawyer – mercifully not a much needed profession in that context!

One final point; in the mid-sixties the Vietnam War was raging.  The subject was carefully avoided, but both of us knew it was hovering over our heads like a black cloud.

Comments are closed.