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My Syrian Refugee Grandparents’ Lost America

Resource type: News

New York Daily News | [ View Original Source (opens in new window) ]

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By Christopher Oechsli

Almost 115 years ago, Abraham and Camelia George left the small Syrian village of Mattan Arnouk. They sailed past the Statue of Liberty and landed on Ellis Island. They were refugees. Syrian refugees.

They passed through a Manhattan neighborhood known as Little Syria — today the site of the World Trade Center — and settled upstate in Ithaca, New York.

Abraham eventually got a job at the Cayuga Rock Salt mine. He woke at 5 a.m. each morning and walked six miles each way to and from work along the railroad tracks. He supported his two sons at Cornell University.

Abraham George, Jr., was the catcher on the varsity baseball team and an All-American honorable mention football player. He was inducted into the same sports Cornell Hall of Fame that features Charles F. Feeney, who Bill Gates has called one of the world’s greatest philanthropists of our time.

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Christopher Oechsli is President and CEO of The Atlantic Philanthropies.

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