“if someone closes the door for you, build a building next to them.”
It’s a time in our history that’s hard to forget. In the 1950s, when Sephardi Jews were immigrating to Israel in record numbers, there was an obvious clash between the cultures. Some people who were born and raised in Israel saw Sephardi, or “Oriental Jews,” as backward and primitive. The Israeli Foreign Minister, Abba Eban, was famously quoted as saying, “The goal must be to instill in them a Western spirit, and not let them drag us into an unnatural Orient.”
Our father was one of those Sephardi Jews who immigrated in the 1950s.
Immigrating to Israel in the 1950’s
When our father was 6-years-old, he lost both of his parents. That’s about the time when he immigrated to a country all alone, as a child. Moving to a place that sees you as less simply because of where you’re from made life exponentially more difficult. He had to find strength and he had to persevere with an attitude of survival.
That was a common theme throughout his life. Our father experienced more difficulty as a result of the widespread discrimination that came simply by being a Sephardic Jew. He was forced to live further from the big cities. He didn’t receive proper training or education. He, along with his entire community, was put behind the rest of the population because the government systematically undermined the Sephardic community. This treatment meant that our father and his peers had to work harder than anyone else to succeed.
Life for a Sephardi Jew in Israel
Living life in Israel with the last name of Esperanso was never easy. He was laughed at. He felt out of place. His name, something he was given at birth, ended up working to his disadvantage as he tried to gain his ground in Ashkenazi Israel. So, he changed it. He changed the name he was given at birth as a means for fitting in with his new country.
From Hardship to Success
Today, we’re known as the Asaf family, which are the first three Hebrew letters of Esperanso. Looking back, he tells us that there were only two ways to continue with life. To blame the country and the people who never believed in him, or to thrive with faith that you’ll find a way. He chose the latter.
There’s a lot to learn from a person who lived his life like this.
Our father used to tell us, “if someone closes the door for you, build a building next to them.” That expression has stuck with us throughout our life and motivated us through some immense struggles. We have refused to believe there are things we cannot do. We have refused to fall victim to the thought that some people matter less than others.
Today, we are proud to tell our father’s story of thriving in the face of discrimination. We don’t tell it with the hope of eradicating prejudices. We are not naive to the fact that people will always look at the world – other people included – through their own lens. Instead, we tell it as a way to motivate others to choose the path of success. We tell it to motivate others to look past what the world tells you to be and look instead at what you know you’re capable of achieving.
Where There’s a Will There’s a Way
Today, we live our life with an attitude of, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” we hope that the system will change and that everyone will be given equal opportunity. Until that day, our goal is to encourage people to thrive under their own power.
We are doing this everyday through our company, which we proudly named Esperanso. We chose the name that our dad shied away from growing up because we love what it represents. It’s a part of our family’s past, even if it’s a painful memory. It’s a part of our lineage, and even though some people might judge it, the name tells a deeper story. It tells a story of more than survival. It tells a story of thriving in the face of adversity. As a company, we take a strong stance on giving back to the country we love – Israel. In spite of the discrimination our father felt when he immigrated here, we love this land and are proud to be able to give back to the people.
Perhaps you need to hear this message today too. You have a choice, just like our father had a choice. Your options are to let the world tell you what you should be or to ignore them and do what you know you can. We encourage you to go after option number two and show the world what you’re capable of achieving.