"With the help of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, we were settled in an inexpensive apartment in Memphis. We had the clothes on our backs and $90 per person to our names, but even so, the living conditions were better than where we had come from. Back in Ukraine, there was literally nothing in the stores. No clothes, no food. But here, you could go to Kroger and see rows and rows of meats, cheeses, and more. It was a culture shock. We all got jobs right away. My brother, sister, and I worked as many hours as we could at a McDonalds near the apartment. We were shocked to find out that if a hamburger didn’t sell in 11 minutes, it was thrown in the garbage. That would never happen in the Soviet Union. Here, you buy an item for 59 cents and then toss it because you know you can get another one easily, but for someone who has to walk around for a month looking for something in a store---if they find it, they’re going to treasure it. It’s a different mindset.
"Immigrants have been coming to the United States since the beginning. Whether it’s to escape persecution or to earn more money, they come to make their lives better. Why would you not appreciate a country’s constitution, a country’s environment? Why would you bash it? As Jews living in Russia, we were discriminated against. You can’t go to a good university because anti-Semitism is rampant. People make comments about you if you’re standing in line for food: ‘Jews always have to buy more food than us.’ Always derogatory comments. You don’t experience anything like that here. People here say: 'That’s fine! That's great! Jesus was a Jew!' That kind of stuff. We felt protected by this freedom of expression. Our entire family, and I’m sure thousands of immigrant families, value that freedom. So when someone takes the American flag and stomps on it, I see that as just wrong on many levels. There are people who made this country what it is today and died in defense of the Constitution. And you’re going to desecrate the flag? If you don’t like something, we have a voting process. We have a way to make changes. That’s what we understood from the beginning.
"I’ve been a scout leader for a long time, and one of the things I teach the boys is the value of patriotism. We say the Pledge of Allegiance at every meeting, and when we retire a flag, we have a flag burning ceremony. I have a container with ashes from every flag we’ve retired over the years. Those ashes mean something to me, and they mean something to the boys. I have a lot of respect for this country. One of the best and happiest occasions of my life was in June of 1985 when I was granted my United States citizenship."
"We started with Scouts just to have fun but stayed in it all these years. My son is grown now and finishing up his Pharm.D. He Eagled out in 2007, but I never left. I enjoy the outdoors, and I enjoy being with the kids. I’ve seen guys come in here, inept, not knowing how to do anything. Mama drops them off, and they don't even know how to wash their own dishes. By the time we’re finished with them, they not only know how to cook, they're respectful, they know how to do first aid, they know how to build a survival shelter, and they know how to get themselves out of dangerous situations. They go from being boys to being men. It’s rewarding."