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EDNY holds naturalization ceremony on Constitution and Citizenship Day

September 18, 2019 Rob Abruzzese
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Every year the Eastern District of New York hosts over 300 naturalization ceremonies for at least 50,000 new citizens who pass through its courthouses, but Tuesday’s was special as it also gave the judges and employees of the court an opportunity to celebrate Sept. 17 as Constitution and Citizenship Day.

“Most of us think of the Fourth of July, the day the Declaration of Independence was signed, as the birthday of the U.S., but our true birthday was Sept. 17, 1787, the date the Constitution was signed,” said Hon. Dora Irizarry, chief judge of the EDNY.

“It certainly is fitting that we celebrate the signing of that document, the Declaration of Independence, the seed that grew into our nation,” she continued. “It is the Constitution that nurtured that seed and helped it grow into a nation that prides itself on the rule of law, equal protection under the law and due process of law.”

Judges of the Eastern District.

The event took place in the Hon. Jack B. Weinstein Ceremonial Courtroom where 50 new citizens, who hail from 21 different countries, were joined by their families and court employees who eagerly looked on.

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The chief judge pointed out that many of the court employees and judges in attendance themselves are either immigrants or children of immigrants. She pointed to Judge Margo Brodie, an immigrant from Antigua who was naturalized in the same courthouse, as a good example. She also pointed out that two of her clerks were immigrants and a third’s parents were naturalized in that same courthouse.

There was music throughout the ceremony thanks to Savannah Stevenson, a lawyer who sang the “Star-Spangled Banner;” Sishel Claverie, who sang “Children of America;” and Alyssa Birrer, who sang “America the Beautiful.”

Alyssa Birrer sings “America the Beautiful.”

The song Claverie sang was from the jazz opera “Dear Erich,” which was composed by Ted and Lesley Rosenthal, who also happened to be the event’s keynote speakers. Ted Rosenthal talked about the inspiration for the jazz opera, which was commissioned and premiered by the New York City Opera at the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

Rosenthal explained that his father, a Jewish immigrant from Germany, never discussed his past much, but after he died in 1995, a box of about 200 letters that his grandmother had sent to his father from Germany was discovered in an attic.

“My grandmother’s translated letters opened a whole new world for me with vivid depictions in her personable voice describing family, friends, people and places that were a part of my father’s life in Germany,” he said. “Through the letters … I could feel in historically personal terms the institutionalized hate that befell them, their frustrated efforts to emigrate and the walls of persecution closing in.”

After Hon. Leo Glasser performed the citizenship oath, he joined Chief Judge Irizarry, Magistrate Judge Vera Scanlon, the Rosenthals and Brian Meier, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services field officer and director, shook hands with each of the new citizens and presented them with certificates of naturalization and copies of the U.S. Constitution.

“The persons who contributed to the development of the country, they brought with them their skills, their artistry, their intelligence and their muscle. In every sense of the word, we are a country of immigrants,” said Judge Glasser.

“As I look out at the new citizens of this country sitting here before me, what I see is a microcosm of America,” Judge Glasser continued. “They are essentially what this country is about: persons of every race, every color and religion. I can only imagine the courage, the desire and fear that all of you felt for you to come here.”

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