Immigrants Tammuz Dubnov and Gad Shaanan from Israel and Michel Cohen of Mexico are among 76 New Americans who are featured in an innovative exhibition that was created by the staff of the San Diego Union-Tribune in cooperation with the New Americans Museum at Liberty Station.

Each life-size portrait of an immigrant to San Diego County is accompanied by a Quick Response (QR) Code which enables viewers to view on their smart phones a video in which the New American tells of his or her life in a statement that lasts approximately a minute.

We learn, for example, that Dubnov was born in Jerusalem and came to California when he was eight years old.  Accelerating through high school, he began at age 15 studying theoretical mathematics at UC Berkeley, graduating when he was 18 in 2014.  In the four years since, he has founded a technology company that creates “interactive environments for any sort of industry or brand.”

Currently he is preoccupied with managing, fundraising, and marketing his business, in which “everything is sensor driven.”

Gad Shanaan at right

Although born in Israel, Shaanan arrived in the United States via Canada.  He explained that his father was an Israeli diplomat who had been posted in different countries in Europe before being stationed in Canada, where Shaanan spent his formative years going to high school.  “I felt very much more Canadian than Israeli because I never really lived there although I did identify with the country,” Shanaan said.

Shanaan is the chief executive officer of Gadlight, a design consulting firm which “designed the new trolley in San Diego for Siemens years ago” and also “designed the air train in JFK (Kennedy Airport in New York).”

Married and the father of two daughters, Shanaan concluded his video statement saying, “Obviously I am proud to be an American.  I think it is a terrific country.  There is a tremendous amount of opportunity here.”

Michel Cohen, at left

Cohen came to the United States from Mexico City in 2010.  “I’m a financial advisor and I also own a real estate company,” he said.  When he and his wife decided to move to the United States with their children, “we wanted more security; we wanted less pollution; we wanted less traffic,” he stated.

“I think I have made a fantastic decision because my kids are happy, my wife is happy, and I am very happy.”

The video testimonials are part of the “New American Voices: Our Immigrant Stories” exhibit that will continue on view through February 3 at the museum, which is located at Liberty Station (the former Naval Training Center) at 2825 Dewey Road, #102.   It is open Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on weekends from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

San Diego Union-Tribune published a spread on immigrants to the county.

The portraits, in much smaller size, were originally published in the September 16, 2018 edition of the San Diego Union-Tribune, accompanied with articles based on research detailing the impact of immigrants on San Diego County, where 799,357 people—or 24.1 percent of the region’s population — were born in countries other than the United States.

The article and exhibit reported that 44 percent of San Diego County’s immigrant population is from Mexico, 12 percent from the Philippines, 5 percent from China, and 5 percent from Vietnam.  Some of the many other countries represented in the sample include Canada, England, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and Russia.

According to the museum’s instructional legend immigrants in San Diego County “are restaurant owners and doctors, university professors and musicians, writers, and farmers, beauticians and lawyers, engineers and cashiers, architects and nurses—almost every kind of pursuit imaginable.”

The research found that 28.4 percent of the San Diego region’s immigrants over age 25 have a bachelor’s degree, 35 percent of them are entrepreneurs, and 1 in 5 is the “estimated number of immigrants who are unauthorized.”

Collectively, immigrants in San Diego have $16.3 billion in spending power, pay $7.5 billion in federal taxes, and $2.1 billion in state and local taxes, according to researchers.

Although many people were involved in designing, photographing, and printing the special project, special mention was given to San Diego Union-Tribune writers John Wilkens, Kate Morrissey, Luis Cruz and George Varga.

“Reflecting on the notion that we all have a story to tell and in the case of immigrants it often involves a journey, family, seeking opportunity, freedom, and safety, the stories begin to take shape, some at times harrowing, perhaps sad; many hopeful and highly personal accounts speaking to the universal human condition of seeking a safe refuge, a place and a space to call home,” according to the museum exhibit.

“America historically has been that home to many for generations.”

Republished from San Diego Jewish World