As some of you know, I serve on the board of America's oldest immigrant and refugee services agency, The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. I was in New York today attending a HIAS board meeting (I'm writing this on my flight home). At our meeting, I had the pleasure of listening to a talk by Lucette Lagnado, a former client of HIAS who entered the US as a refugee in 1963. Lagnado's story is unusual because she is from a Jewish family that left Egypt, not the place many people associate with having a Jewish community. But tens of thousands of Jews once lived in Cairo and other Egyptian cities. Most left in the years following World War II.
Ms. Lagnado is now a health care reporter with the Wall Street Journal. And she is the author of the critically acclaimed new book The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit. The book is an immigrant story as described by the New Yorker:
This memoir of an Egyptian Jewish family’s gradual ruin is told without melodrama by its youngest survivor, now a reporter at the Wall Street Journal. Lagnado’s story hinges on her father, "the Captain," who cut a dashing figure in mid-century Cairo, consorting with British officers and Egyptian royalty at French cafés while his family, neglected, stayed home. At first refusing to join the tide of Jews fleeing Egypt under the Nasser regime, the Captain finally yields, in 1963, when the family escapes to Paris and then Brooklyn. Deprived of wealth, status, and any means of coping, Lagnado’s father fades, but he never loses his air of chivalry, manifested in a regular outflow of tiny checks to charitable causes—orphanages, vocational schools, and dowry funds for poor girls—overseas. "As if the Captain were capable of rescuing anyone," his daughter writes.