For this activity, I asked my father to write about my great-grandfather. This is what he wrote. “My grandfather, Harry Brooks led an interesting life, and fully realized the American dream. Harry moved to the United States in 1921, when he was in his early twenties. Harry was active in raising awareness for his fellow Jews who wanted to move from Europe to the United States or modern Israel’s predecessor, Palestine. (The attached photo shows Harry, on a bike, at around age 20 at a rally for emigration). Soon after this photo was taken, Harry left behind the world he knew in what is now modern-day Belarus. He spoke no English upon his arrival in the United States. Harry recognized that education would provide a path to success, and further understood that mastering English – a language then completely foreign to him — would be the first, critical step along this path. Within two years of his arrival, Harry became fluent in English and soon enrolled in pharmacy school at Fordham University. Harry worked hard and graduated with his degree; within a few years, he had opened his own pharmacy in the Bronx, New York. The pharmacy was a successful venture, and gave Harry the means to care for his family.
Looking back, Harry’s decision to leave Belarus was certainly the right one. In 1941, the Nazis invaded Eastern Europe, including Belarus. Nearly every Jewish community was destroyed, with its inhabitants either murdered on the spot, or sent to death camps. Harry’s friends and relatives who stayed in Belarus all suffered this fate.
Harry greatly appreciated the opportunities the United States afforded him. He taught his son (Aidan’s grandfather) to very much appreciate the United States. This sense of gratitude has been passed down from Harry, and now to Aidan, a third generation American.”