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After having finished the procedure, push the arm down, the stuffed grape leaves will come out at the end of the machine ready to be cooked. Width of the leaves will come out around 6.2 cm / thickness is 3 sizes. Last spring break, I went to Las Vegas to visit my relatives.

I remember rolling grape leaves in the kitchen with my aunt Lisa and my great aunt Margaret, our hands kneading into the table. We filled the leaves with meat and rice and stored them in a metal pot. Her husband, my uncle Dicky, who used to participate in the activity, had died maybe a decade earlier, but, the tradition of rolling the grape leaves lived on. After we finished, I took a bike ride—and felt free as I peddled. I rode down well-trodden paths and passed trees and pink and white flowers, signs of a young, blooming spring. Years earlier, we had planted a tree for my uncle Dicky, who died in Ithaca, New York, where my relatives used to live on Syrian Hill and my dad grew up and lived for thirty years. If trees give us air, they also continue to give us life. Traditions live on in places and foods, which have the unique ability to root people in their heritage. The same experiences that my relatives and ancestors hold close to their hearts aren’t as readily accessible to me.

When my great aunt Margie was my age, she went to Syria. At her home in Ithaca, she has drawers filled with jewelry from places all around the globe and a map with pins indicating every country she’s visited. Conditions have changed drastically in Syria; my family doesn't want me to travel there due to war, civil unrest, and terrorism. So while my aunt Margie was able to challenge gender norms in the 1950s in order to pursue international travel, I will most likely not visit Syria in my lifetime. A four-hour drive from Ithaca, a robin leaves its nest and returns. I frequently visit my Jewish grandparents there—Bubbe and Poppie, who live in Chappaqua where everything is green, and it rains often. My grandmother is a communicator, and my grandfather is an artist. Bubbe bakes bread and has named her recipes after each of her grandchildren. Poppie sends the news clippings to each of us, always with a headline circled in purple marker. I grew up with lots of cousins on my mother’s side of the family, bar and bat mitzvahs, and a love for family and tradition. But, years later—I have had to come to terms with the fact that certain parts of my Jewish and Syrian identity will be buried under a culture of denial and the pressure to assimilate. Last year, I took my grandparents to my college Hillel dinner at our Interfaith chapel. It poured buckets outside that weekend, but there was so much love and community in that room. My grandparents asked if all my Jewish friends went to Hillel, and I responded that not all of them did. The normalization of anti-religious sentiment on college campuses, I mused. The polarization of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. The impossible nature of being a Jewish college student today. There is a generational divide; there is a religious divide; there is a divide. It wasn’t until I went to college that I recognized the complexity of my faith, that I understood why we fled for so many years. Throughout history, Jews fled from many countries due to discrimination, persecution, and genocide. The world industrialized, and so our political struggle became wedded to modernity. I feel most connected to my family history when I work my retail job.

I’m here, folding clothes in a Target for minimum wage, and my relatives came here by boat from Syria and Italy so they could mine coal.

I work so that I can pay tuition, and they worked so that they could carry themselves and their families into the future: this future. I packed perfectly wrapped chocolates, tossing the ones that were wrapped poorly to the side.

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