Coming to America Program

On Sunday, February 16, 2014. Weinstein JCC presented Coming to America: Stories of Immigration from Richmond’s Jewish Community.  After Rabbi Ben Romer opened with prayer, Mark Sisisky introduced each of the panelists. 

Janet Meyers shared the story of her family’s immigration as well as her husband’s family, who founded the Heilig-Meyers furniture store. 

Jay Ipson, Lithuanian Holocaust survivor and co-founder of the Virginia Holocaust Museum in Richmond, described how he and his parents moved to the United States in 1947.  His father, a lawyer, cleaned bathrooms in a gas station to support his family until he eventually purchased the gas station and later opened an auto parts store.  Jay’s mother worked as a seamstress in Thalhimer’s department store.  Assimilating into American culture, they changed their name from Ipp to Ipson. 

Roben Farzad, a Jewish immigrant from Iran, explained his reasons for moving to America.  A Bloomberg Businessweek contributor, he has written for many prestigious newspapers and appears on a variety of television news programs.

Felipe Marroquin described the heart breaking story of his wife of 20 years being deported, devastating his daughters and himself.  A family loyal to America, they value education and volunteer in the community and at Sacred Heart Catholic Church.  Although he paid thousands of dollars for legal assistance, the lawyer failed to provide proper information that could have prevented the deportation.

Rabbi Andrew Goodman and Shir Bodner presented, “Draw Back the Curtain,” a collaboration of Jewish Family Services and the University of Richmond Hillel.  This documentary details interviews with other immigrants.

During the discussion following the inspirational stories, audience participants noted that all of the immigrants shared common values of family, faith, and patriotism.